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OIS NEWS - 10/1/2021

Updates to COVID-19 International Travel Restrictions and National Interest Exceptions

On Sept. 15, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) updated the COVID-19 travel restrictions and exceptions webpage which summarizes the interpretation and application of four presidential proclamations that have suspended entry to the U.S. of certain noncitizens since the first proclamation was issued on Jan. 31, 2020. Within the context of higher education, these four proclamations have restricted travel to the U.S. by F-1 international students and J-1 Exchange Visitors from China, Iran, South Africa, The European Schengen Area, The United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, and Brazil.

Since the release of these presidential proclamations, DOS has issued multiple and detailed statements granting exceptions to the travel restrictions to internationals whose travel was deemed in the national interest of the U.S. These National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) allowed some international students and J-1 Exchange Visitors to resume travel to the U.S. after receiving approval from their local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

The Sept. 15 update states that F-1 international students subject to one of the four presidential proclamations are now "automatically considered for National Interest Exception (NIE) at the Port of Entry and do not require advance approval of a NIE from an embassy or consulate." However, "new or returning students present in China, Brazil, Iran, South Africa, or India may arrive no earlier than 30 days before the start of an academic program beginning August 1, 2021 or after, including optional practical training (OPT)."

Unfortunately, J-1 Exchange Visitors in student and academic categories subject to one of the presidential proclamations are not covered by the automatic NIE and must still request an individual NIE from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate prior to traveling to the U.S. Furthermore, and similar to F-1 students, “new and returning J-1 students and academics present in China, Brazil, Iran, South Africa, or India may arrive no earlier than 30 days before the start of an academic program beginning August 1, 2021 or after." That said, the Sept. 15 update did specify that ECFMG-sponsored J-1 physicians have been added to the list of individuals exempt from the proclamations entirely.

The Office of International Services encourages internationals and their advising or hosting departments to reach out with questions about COVID-19 travel restrictions and exceptions as the situation continues to evolve. Please see below for a list of contact email addresses:

Questions about this announcement or anything related to the UIC international community can always be directed to the Office of International Services at ois@uic.edu or (312) 996-3121.