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National Interest Exceptions for Eligible International Students

July 1, 2021

This guest blog post from the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Customs and Border Protection contains information about how recent department guidance regarding National Interest Exceptions applies to F and M students.

The U.S. Department of State has released guidance regarding National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) for eligible travelers from China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Overview of NIEs

NIEs allow qualified travelers who are applying for or have a valid visa to travel to the United States, even as certain Presidential Proclamations remain in effect to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

Determine Student Eligibility

Students subject to geographic COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations due to their presence in India, China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program or optional practical training (OPT) opportunity begins on or after Aug. 1, 2021. Additionally, students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.

Review and Update Student Records

Students at U.S. ports of entry will need to demonstrate that their program begins on or after Aug. 1, 2021. Ensuring that Forms I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” and Student and Exchange Visitor Information System records reflect an Initial Session Start Date or Program Start Date on or after Aug. 1, 2021, will allow CBP officers to easily verify student information at the port of entry. As a reminder, final determinations regarding admissibility are made by CBP at the individual port of entry.

Additional Resources

For additional information and questions about the COVID-19 travel restrictions as well as NIEs, visit these Department of State resources:

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