US Visa Travel Restrictions: Who Is Exempted And Who Is Not??

US visa travel restrictions came into effect from 4 May 2021 onwards, and a majority of people with valid visas have been banned from entering the United States of America. This decision was taken by Biden, President of the United States of America, keeping in mind the current COVID-19 situation in India. While certain exemptions have been allowed, students with a valid F1 visa seem to be confused as to whether they would be allowed to travel.

“Under the current Presidential Proclamation, student visa holders are able to enter the United States if their classes start on or after 1 August 2021. We are unfortunately unable to approve exceptions for F visa holders with a program start date before 1 August 2021,” said the US Embassy in India on the Proclamation suspending the entry of certain nonimmigrant travelers who have been physically present in India.

Does the US Visa Travel Restriction Apply to Valid F1 Visa Holders?
Several students who have traveled to India due to various reasons are now questioning as to whether or not they would be allowed to enter the US. The US Embassy says that such students can enter the country not before 20 July 2021. Dataquest spoke to one such individual who said that after getting in touch with various authorities in the embassy as well as his institute, it has been made clear to him that he will not be allowed to enter the country before 20 July 2021 even though he has a valid F1 visa.

“It was confusing as the order mentions ‘Students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor program’ are exempted. However, I’ve now been told by my institute that the rule applies to me too. I had come down to attend a family occasion. Seems like now I’ll have to work from home until 20 July from India itself,” said the source in his last year of PhD who did not want to be named.

The proclamation clearly mentions that ‘students with valid M1 and F1 visa intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing 1 August 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual National Interest Exception to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies’. However, the embassy says that applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an M1 or F1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel. Students are therefore advised to get in touch with their respective institutes for more clarity on the matter.

Who Is Exempted from US Visa Travel Restrictions?
According to the proclamation signed by Biden, the following individuals will be allowed to travel:

Citizens of the United States as well as non-citizen nationals and any lawful permanent resident of the country.
Spouses, or fiancé(e)s of citizens.
Pilots and aircrew traveling to the United States for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance.
Travelers who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure sectors, and so on.

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