UPDATE: Effective Tuesday, May 4, 2021, India will be added to the list of countries with a travel ban to the U.S. The U.S. Department of State has already confirmed that the below National Interest Exception to the travel ban will be extended to certain travelers from India, in addition to certain travelers from Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa.
On April 27, 2021, the U.S. Department of State extended National Interest Exceptions for certain travelers from Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa. Previously, the National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) were only available for certain travelers from the EU Schengen area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. These existing NIEs remain in effect.
The new NIEs allow incoming students with valid F-1 visas to travel directly from Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa to the U.S. to begin an academic program of study that commences August 1, 2021 or later. According to the Department of State, “Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. 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.”
J-1 Students, Scholars, and Student Interns located in these countries must request an NIE from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in order to qualify for direct travel to the U.S. from Brazil, China, Iran, or South Africa.