US eases restrictions on travel from pandemic-barred countries

Students and journalists qualifying for a National Interest Exception can enter the US

The full moon of April, called the Super Pink Moon, rises over the skyline of Manhattan on April 26, 2021.  / AFP / Angela Weiss

The US State Department is easing entry restrictions for students, journalists and academics from countries affected by pandemic-related travel measures, officials said.

Under a National Interest Exception, qualified applicants from countries including Brazil, Iran, China and South Africa may be eligible to enter the US.

Most non-US citizens from these countries and much of Europe have been barred from the country during the pandemic.

The largest proportion of international students in the US comes from China, which makes up about 35 per cent.

“Students seeking to commence studies in the fall, certain academics, journalists and individuals who provide critical infrastructure support in countries affected by a geographic Covid-19 restriction may now qualify for a National Interest Exception,” the State Department said.

US colleges and universities urged the State Department to take the step before international students made enrolment decisions.

The American Council on Education pressed the Biden administration to act quickly, saying the government could "deliver a welcoming message to current and prospective international students, which can help restore the US as a destination of choice, as well as supporting an important economic activity as the US economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic".