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Cautious steps as US welcomes some travellers

The US has announced that travellers from the Schengen area, the UK and Ireland may be allowed into the country via national interest exceptions, while missions around the globe will begin phasing in routine visa cases, with students prioritised.

Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection/ Glenn Fawcett

"Many Dept of State officials have long been and continue to be tremendous supporters of international education"

However, J-1 visa holders remain restricted from entering the US as the current administration believes American workers “compete” against foreign nationals taking part in au pair, camp counsellor, intern, summer work travel, teacher, and trainee programs.

The Schengen area was one region that the Trump administration suspended travel from as a result of Covid-19 in March.

J-1 visa holders remain restricted from entering the US

Valid F-1 and M-1 visa holders from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland will not need to seek a national interest exception to travel, but J-1 holders should contact their nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request, the US State Department said.

F-1, M-1, and certain J-1 visa applicants are also included in a list of nonimmigrant and immigrant visa processing that US missions will phase back in, according to FAQs.

“We expect the volume and type of visa cases each post will process to depend on local circumstances,” the department said.

The announcement has been welcomed by international education advocates on social media.

“An embassy or consulate will resume adjudicating all routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa cases only when adequate resources are available and it is safe to do so,” the department added, however.

The national interest exceptions will “ assist with the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and bolster key components of our transatlantic relationship”, the government suggested.

The Department of State added that it is “committed to implementing… in an orderly fashion” the presidential proclamation barring foreign nationals that it considers a “risk” to the US labour market during the Covid-19 economic recovery period.

The international education sector is continuing to advocate #SaveJ1 – the Alliance for International Exchange recently warned the suspension could cost more than $223 million and 7,000 jobs to the US economy.

“Limited exceptions” to the suspension include those travelling for humanitarian reasons, public health and Covid-19 response, and national security, the administration added.

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