US exempts European students from coronavirus travel restrictions

US President Donald Trump waves to the media as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return to Washington, DC, USA, 15 July 2020, from Atlanta, Georgia. [EPA-EFE/Yuri Gripas]

Foreign students coming from Europe are exempt from a travel ban the United States imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the US State Department told congressional offices on Thursday (16 July).

The State Department also told lawmakers that it would offer exemptions for some au pairs and family members of visa holders in the United States, according to a memo sent to lawmakers.

The moves are part of a Trump administration effort to gradually reopen international travel following months of sweeping restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump banned travelers from most European countries in March as COVID-19 cases soared in the region before the disease took hold in the United States.

The European Union began to allow non-essential travel from a limited number of countries last month, but such travelers from the United States, where coronavirus cases have risen rapidly in recent weeks, remain banned.

EU lifts travel restrictions for 15 third countries from 1 July, excluding the US

The EU agreed on Tuesday (30 June) on a ‘safe travel list’ including 15 third countries from where travel to Europe will be possible from 1 July, with the notable exception of the United States, where COVID-19 is still spreading.

The US decision to allow European students comes days after the Trump administration agreed to drop a policy that could have forced tens of thousands of international students to leave the United States if their classes went entirely online. The reversal came amid legal challenges by major universities and pressure from business and tech companies.

China, Brazil and Iran face similar travel bans, but students from those nations were not included in the US exemptions.

Students in European countries who already have visas to study in the United States are exempt from the ban, according to the memo.

The State Department also said spouses and children of certain foreign workers coming to the United States could qualify for exemptions, including the spouses of skilled workers with H-1B visas.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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