US resumes visas for students
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Vineeta Pandey
New Delhi: Indian students who have taken admission in American universities in the 2021-22 academic year can book appointments for visas from Monday at the United States embassy in New Delhi and US consulates in other Indian cities. The US embassy has decided to start an intensive two months of interviews starting July 1. Embassy officials said "tens of thousands of interview slots" would be available from Monday. However, parents who want to go to the US to "help their children settle" cannot accompany them at this time as the US government has still not opened B1/B2 visas for tourists.
The US stopped the entry of Indians after President Joe Biden signed Presidential Proclamation 10199 suspending most non-immigrant travel from India on April 30 due to the intense Covid-19 second wave that saw a huge number of Indians infected with the contagious "Delta" variant. Now, with the wave abating and fresh cases largely under control, the US government has decided to open its borders for Indian students who will be joining classes in the fall semester.
"Student visas remain a top priority for the US Mission to India and we are making every attempt to facilitate student travel in time for the fall semester. As such, on June 14, 2021, we will open limited July and August student visa appointments at posts across India," the embassy said.
The embassy added that students need not carry the original hard copy of I-20 forms (certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant student status) given by the institutions. Instead, the electronic I-20 provided by schools is accepted by the embassy. Students need to get it printed and carry it with them while coming for their visa. Also, fully funded students do not need to show proof for financial support during the visa interview if it is mentioned in the I-20 form. The students also do not need to give a letter from the university specifying that the classes will be in person.
However, parents will not be allowed to accompany the students to the US to help them settle as tourist (B1/B2) visas are still not being issued. The embassy said that "students would need to travel on their own." This is because under the presidential proclamation, those seeking to travel to the US on tourist visas are not allowed due to the Covid situation. A majority of Indian parents travel on tourist visas to help their children settle in a new country. The embassy said parents who already have B1/B2 visa would need a "national interest exception" in order to fly and the embassy will not be issuing any NIEs in such cases right now.
"Travellers who already possess a valid student or exchange visitor (M) visa and who will begin their programmes on or after August 1, 2021, may travel to the United States without further action from the embassy or consulates in India. Direct travel to the United States from India with an F or M visa may begin no more than 30 days prior to the start date of a student’s classes. We are unable to facilitate travel for F or M visa holders with a programme start date before August 1, 2021, including those who have already been issued a visa. Students with a programme start date before August 1, 2021 should contact their respective educational institutions to discuss their options… Please note that currently, due to safety concerns, the US embassy and consulates in India are only accepting emergency appointments. We remain committed to student visa applicants and will add additional student visa appointments as soon as we are able to do so safely," the embassy posted on its website.
Those travelling to the US have been advised to avoid booking flights with a stop in Europe due to the strict quarantine policies. Everyone needs a RT-PCR test before 72 hours of flying and there is no need to quarantine in the US as of now. The embassy has said that the type of vaccination now depends entirely on individual schools that may accept Indian vaccines or may ask the student to get revaccinated.