Students, academics exempt from US travel ban from India

Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas may enter US only 30 days before start of studies.

Indian students commencing studies in the US in fall as also certain journalists, academics and humanitarian workers, may get an exemption from the Biden administration’s ban on travel from India from May 4.

Certain individuals who provide critical infrastructure support in the US too may qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE), the State Department said after President Joe Biden announced the India travel ban Friday.

In keeping with the US commitment to facilitate legitimate travel, Indians in certain categories would get travel exceptions similar to those accorded to Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa, it said.

The State Department, however, warned that the pandemic continues to limit the number of visas US embassies and consulates abroad are able to process.

The notification said that students who already have valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later may enter the US no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies.

Such students do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel.

READ: US restricts travel from India; H-1B, L1 holders most affected (April 30, 2021)

However, it advised students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas to 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, it added.

The State Department further said it would continue to grant NIEs for qualified travelers seeking to enter US for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.

The travel ban won’t apply to US citizens or permanent residents and their spouses. But Most other travelers who have been in India during a 14-day period before their attempted entry into the US would be prohibited.

Individuals who are exempt from the travel ban would still need to meet other US requirements for international travelers.

READ: Indian Americans concerned about travel to Covid hit India (April 26, 2021)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently requires that all US-bound air travelers have proof of a negative Covid-19 test result no more than three days before arrival, regardless of vaccination status.

Travelers are then required to take another test three to five days following their arrival in the US and to self-quarantine.

Currently United Airlines Holdings Inc. and Air India are the only two airlines offering nonstop flights between the US and India.

United operates four round-trip flights between the two countries each day. Air India in April had between three and six flights scheduled each day.

Unless travelers fall under the exemptions outlined by the US government, they will be prohibited from entering the country after May 4 even if they already booked tickets.

A United spokesman said in a statement that the airline will comply with the new restrictions and will issue refunds to travelers who had already booked flights and are barred from entering the US.


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Don’t let the ‘America First’ derail India-U.S. ties (April 24, 202)

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Air India announces more US-India flights from June 11 (June 8, 2020)

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