National Interest Exception Update: Five Additional Countries Now Eligible
Can you explain the announcement from the U.S. State Department from late April 2021 regarding the National Interest Exception to countries with travel bans?
The U.S. Department of State announced on April 27, 2021 that the National Interest Exception (NIE) will be expanded to include F-1 students and J-1 Students and Scholars who are residing in South Africa, Iran, Brazil, China and India (India was announced on April 30th, 2021). These countries are added to the list which already includes the Schengen zone countries, the UK and Ireland. F-1 Students and J-1 Students and Scholars residing in these newly-listed countries, whose programs begin after August 1, 2021, will now qualify to enter the U.S. without the 14-day quarantine period in another country prior to entering the U.S. The U.S. Department of State updated this guidance on May 27th
I am a continuing student, and I am currently residing in a country that is subject to the COVID travel ban. Do I now qualify for a National Interest Exception?
It is our understanding that F-1 and J-1 Students and Scholars from the Schengen Zone, UK and Ireland are not subject to the August 1, 2021 condition and may enter the US at any time (J-1s must enter during the 30-day window listed on their NIE provided for them by the embassy/consulate). However, at this time we urge students and scholars to confirm with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate that this is the case.
F-1 and J-1 Students and J-1 Scholars from the second group of countries (Iran, South Africa, India, Brazil and China) are restricted by the August 1, 2021 condition: incoming students and scholars must have a start date after August 1, 2021 to be eligible. It remains unclear at this time to what extent the August 1, 2021 condition applies to continuing students and scholars - including those students on OPT- whose start dates will in most cases always be before August 1, 2021.
What is Bechtel International Center doing about these to clarify these issues? Bechtel, along with national professional organizations, campus partners and peer institutions, has sought clarification on these issues from the U.S. Department of State. This is an evolving situation and we will keep our international community updated.
I am a brand new incoming student for Fall quarter 2021, and I am currently in China. I have not yet entered the U.S. in F-1 status, do I need to contact the U.S. Embassy about a National Interest Exception (NIE)?
F-1 Students from China are included in the most recent NIE announcement and if their programs start in September 2021, will now qualify to enter the U.S. without the 14-day quarantine period in another country prior to entering the U.S. In your case, your updated I-20 should show a start date of sometime in September 2021, depending on your program and there would meet the August 1, 2021 condition for the second group of countries (China, South Africa, Iran, India and Brazil). F-1 students do not need to contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for the NIE, but J-1 Students and Scholars do need to apply for an NIE at the nearest embassy or consulate.
I am a continuing student from Brazil, and will be graduating next year, but I have not been back to my home country for over two years. Do you recommend that it is OK now to travel back home?
The Bechtel International Center recommends that you do not travel at this time. However, if you have a family emergency, and if you must depart, be aware that there is still confusion on the August 1, 2021 condition and the unclarity about how this applies to continuing students. Also be aware that travel restrictions could change rapidly during the pandemic emergency, impacting your ability to return to the U.S.
I am currently on post-OPT, what guidance can you provide regarding travel?
At this time, the policy is very unclear. We are advising students on post-OPT and STEM OPT not to travel at this time. This FAQ will be revised when we receive further guidance.
I am on a J-1 visa outside the U.S., are we required to obtain an NIE before traveling to the U.S.?
Yes, J-1 Students and Scholars must request an NIE from a U.S. embassy or consulate in order to qualify for direct travel to the U.S. J-1s attempting to travel from Brazil, South Africa, Iran, China or India may not be eligible for an NIE based on the August 1, 2021 condition, however. Please reach out to the embassy or consulate nearest you for guidance.
Does my F-2 dependent qualify for the NIE since I qualify for as an F-1 student?
Yes, the NIE announcement does state that “derivative family members accompanying a noncitizen who is excepted from or otherwise not subject to the Proclamation and who is engaging in certain types of long-term employment, studies, or research of four weeks or longer.” J-1 Students and Scholars would be required to apply for the NIE, and the aforementioned derivative information would apply for the J-2 dependent(s).
I am currently in the U.S. and will be transferring to Stanford once I graduate this quarter. If I travel home to India this summer, will I be required to stop in a third country for a 14-day quarantine before entering the U.S.?
At this time, our understanding of government policy is that you would be subject to the14-day quarantine requirement.
If you have an urgent question regarding the NIE, please contact the Embassy/Consulate near you regarding your specific case. We have seen a variety of interpretations on the NIE guidance from different embassies and consulates.
NOTE: Always check with your airline about your ability to board the returning flight. We have seen students who have been prevented from boarding their returning flight. Also, when you purchase your airplane ticket buy travel insurance in case you are further delayed.