international students europe
A plane from Delta airline is seen above the skyline of Manhattan before it lands at JFK airport on March 15, 2020 in New York City. - Source: Johannes Eisele/AFP

Despite escalating COVID-19 cases in the US, international students from Europe, UK, and Ireland are now allowed to enter the country.

The decision comes a few days after the Trump administration dropped a controversial rule to deport international students enrolled in online-only programmes this fall.

The US State Department told congressional offices last Thursday that international students from Europe, as well as those from UK and Ireland who already have visas to study in the US, are exempted from travel bans to the country.

This latest announcement appears to be part of the US government’s plan to gradually reopen international borders in the US after months of travel restrictions.

According to the US State Department website, “Granting national interest exceptions for this travel to the US from the Schengen area, UK, and Ireland, will assist with the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and bolster key components of our transatlantic relationship.”

Here’s what you should know about this latest update.

Who is exempt?

If you aren’t sure if you’re allowed to enter the US, check your visa status. For now, those on valid F-1 and M-1 student visas from certain countries are allowed to travel to the US without seeking a national interest exception.

According to the State Department website, “Students travelling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. Students from those areas who are travelling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.”

“Certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students may qualify for National Interest Exceptions under Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9993 (Schengen Area) and 9996 (United Kingdom and Ireland). Qualified business and student travellers who are applying for or have valid visas or ESTA authorisation may travel to the US even as PPs 9993 and 9996 remain in effect.”

Countries in the Schengen area include: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

International students from Europe, UK, and Ireland can soon pack their bags and fly back to the US. Source: Johannes Eisele/AFP

Can you apply for a new student visa?

The latest announcement has clarified that if you’re from these countries and already holding a US visa, you will be allowed back in the US.

There is, however, no official news yet whether international students from Europe, UK, and Ireland hoping to begin their studies in the US will be able to secure new visas.

Still, visa application centres are slowly reopening around the world, so check with them or your local US embassy if you’re now able to apply for a student visa in the US.

Will international students from Europe, UK and Ireland be quarantined?

There is no official guidance yet over whether international students from Europe, UK, and Ireland will have to undergo mandatory quarantine when they enter US.

It is likely that they will have to self-isolate for two weeks, according to recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Does the travel exemption work both ways?

Although the European Union has started lifting travel bans for those from “safe countries,” Americans are still unable to travel to Europe due to rising cases in the country.

Visitors can still enter the UK and Ireland, but they must agree to self-isolate for two weeks.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

International students still welcome to study in Ireland despite COVID-19

Pathway programme providers offer visa refunds, flexible start dates