U.S. Department Of State Issues An Announcement Clarifying Exceptions To Presidential Proclamations On Immigration; Student Visa Restrictions Relaxed

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On July 16, 2020, the U.S. Department of State (State Department) issued an update on its website which clarified the exceptions available to bans on entry to the United States for foreign nationals imposed by Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052.

The State Department confirmed that the national interest exceptions are available for specific purposes including humanitarian travel to the United States, public health reasons, national security and other “limited exceptions.” The national interest exceptions encompass the following:

  • Specific H and J visa holders traveling to the United States to work in support of critical foreign policy objectives (i.e., COVID-19 pandemic response) or traveling at the request of the U.S. government;
  • The spouse and children of H, J and L visa holders who are already exempted from or not subject to Presidential Proclamation 10052;
  • Immigrant visa applicants (foreign nationals applying for U.S. permanent residence through consular services abroad) who are subject to “aging out” of their current visa prior to Presidential Proclamation expirations or within two weeks thereafter; and
  • Otherwise qualified derivative applicants (spouses and children under 21).

No currently valid visas would be revoked pursuant to Presidential Proclamations. Diversity visa applicants who had not entered the United States as of April 23, 2020 are subject to the proclamations’ restrictions and would not be considered admissible unless they are eligible for an exception.

In order to qualify for a national interest exception, an applicant would need to request a visa appointment at a consular post abroad. A decision regarding the grant of the exception would be made at the time of an interview. Dependent visa holders (i.e., L-2, H-4 and J-2 visa applicants) need not establish a national interest exception.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Rescinds International Student Visa Travel Bans

In early July, the Student Visa and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued a rule that unless foreign students would be attending U.S.-based university classes in-person, or attending universities and colleges with extremely limited online attendance, the students would be unable to remain in the United States and foreign students would be unable to enter the United States to attend schools that would be conducting classes in an online format only.

Following intervention by the academic community and the initiation of multiple lawsuits brought commenced by 17 states, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the State of California University system and others, the administration rescinded the student visa regulation and permitted international students to resume online learning while in the United States. current presidential proclamation permits F-1 and J-1 students from the Schengen countries to apply for and receive visas for entry purposes to the United States.

A sigh of relief from international students and the universities could be heard across the nation which resulted in maintenance of the status quo introduced in March 2020 with the onset of COVID-19 in which the administration permitted online classes for foreign students to remain for the duration of the epidemic. The international student community attending universities, colleges and institutions of higher learning in this country exceeds 1.1 million students and generates over 40 billion in revenue.

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