USDOS Provides Clarification on NIE for China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, India effective 08/01/2021; applies to travel on F-1 OPT/STEM OPT Extension
On May 13, 2021 (and again updated on May 27, 2021), U.S. Department of State posted an update to its posting on April 26, 2021 eligibility for National Interest Exemption (NIE) to the 14-day travel restriction to the U.S. for certain travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland (including F students and certain J exchange visitor visa categories).
Specifically, the update clarifies that the NIE effective August 1, 2021 applies to those who had been physically present in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa. [NOTE: India was added to the NIE effective August 1, 2021 in a USDOS announcement on April 30, 2021 with the same conditions as China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa.]
This wording thus verifies that the NIE as it applies to travel to the U.S. from the Schengen Area in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland remain effective since initially implemented for these countries in July 2020.
An additional statement verifies that the travel restriction, and eligible NIE, apply to students traveling to the U.S. from these countries on authorized F-1 Optional Practical Training/STEM Optional Practical Training Extension:
“Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program, including optional practical training (OPT), starting August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to travel.”
J-1 visa holders (student, research scholar, professor, short-term scholar categories) traveling from the above countries would need to contact the local U.S. Embassy/Consulate to obtain a NIE in writing before traveling to the U.S.
If students, including those on F-1 OPT/STEM OPT or J-1 Academic Training, who have been physically present in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, or India want to enter the U.S. before August 1, 2021, they would need to travel to another country not subject to the travel restrictions for at least 14 days before boarding a flight to, or entering, the U.S.
Please also see this summary posting on the U.S. Department of State website on “COVID-19 Travel Restrictions and Exceptions” for reference.