Coronavirus U.S. Immigration Update: F-1/M-1 Exemptions to Pandemic Travel Restrictions

The State Department has announced that foreign nationals with valid F-1 or M-1 student visas will be exempted from the Presidential Proclamation barring the entry into the U.S. of most nonimmigrants traveling from certain parts of the world.

On January 25, 2021, President Biden signed a “Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease.” Similar to the travel restrictions imposed by the Trump Administration, it bars the entry into the United States of certain noncitizens who, within the prior 14 days, have been in Brazil, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa.

Akin to the Trump Administration proclamations, the January 25, 2021 proclamation exempts certain travelers from these restrictions, including persons whose entry “would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security of their designees.”

Other exempted individuals include (but are not limited to):

  • U.S. citizens;
  • U.S. lawful permanent residents;
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents;
  • A foreign national who is the parent or legal guardian of an unmarried U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is both unmarried and under the age of 21; and
  • A foreign national who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen of lawful permanent resident, provided they are both unmarried and under the age of 21.

On February 11, 2021, the State Department announced that foreign nationals with valid F-1 or M-1 student visas will also be exempted from the proclamation issued on January 25, 2021. Implicit in this announcement is the policy that F-1/M-1s will not be required to apply for an individual exemption at a consulate, but rather are automatically considered exempt by virtue of their qualification for an F-1 or M-1 visa.

The State Department also confirmed its prior position that business travelers, investors, academics and journalists traveling pursuant to valid visas may apply for individual national interest exemptions (“NIEs”). Specifically, it noted that “[g]ranting national interest exemptions for…travel to the United States…will assist with the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and bolster key components of our transatlantic relationship.”

Please feel free to contact us regarding these travel updates or any immigration matters relating to the coronavirus pandemic. For more information, please reach out to one of our Immigration Practice Co-Chairs, Manuela M. Morais or Jeffrey M. Zimskind.

This News Alert has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be construed as, and does not constitute, legal advice on any specific matter. For more information, please see the disclaimer.