Updates on Immigration Policy Changes

South Africa Travel Ban Revoked

President Biden issued Revoking Proclamation 10315 , revoking the South Africa travel ban effective 12:01 am on December 31, 2021. For more detailed information, please refer to the Department of State website

Department of State Expands Visa Interview Waivers

On December 23, 2021, the Department of State announced the expansion of visa interview waiver authority through the end of 2022. This new expansion includes and applies to nonimmigrants in F-1 and J-1 status. For more details, please go here.  

More Stringent COVID Testing Requirments Imposed

As part of his strategy to combat COVID-19, on December 2, 2021, President Biden announced more stringent testing requirements for international travelers to the United States. Beginning on December 6, all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 24 hours before their travel to the United States. Please visit the CDC website for more detailed information.  

Travel Restrictions from Eight African Countries

President Biden signed a new proclamation on November 26, 2021, suspending indefinitely the entry into the U.S. of nonimmigrants  who pose a risk of transmitting the coronavirus disease. The immediate family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and others excluded in section 2 are exempted. This proclamation suspends the entry into the United States, of nonimmigrants and noncitizens who were physically present within Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe during the 2 week period before their entry into the United States. The proclamation went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on Monday, November 29, 2021.

U.S. Travel Policy Requiring COVID-19 Vaccination

The White House announced a new travel policy on October 25th, 2021 that effective Monday, November 8, 2021, all foreign nationals (including international students and scholars), will need to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 in order to be able to enter the United States. The accepted vaccines will include FDA approved or authorized and WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines. Please refer to the CDC website   for more information. This document provides a quick visual summary.

In short, you will need to show proof of vaccination. A list of acceptable vaccines can be accessed here. There are very limited exceptions, which include:

  • children under the age of 18
  • those traveling in F-1 or J-1 status from countries with limited COVID vaccines 
  • those who have medical reasons (will need letter)

Those who receive an exception will be required to attest to complaince with  public health requirements, including testing and quarantine, and a requirement to be vaccinated in the U.S.

Important Announcement on F, M, and Academic J Visas

Effective, September 14th, 2021, the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, under the authority delegated to him by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers through the end of 2021 to expand the categories of F, M, and “academic J visa applicants” (secondary school students, college and university students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists) whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview in their consular district of residence, with certain exceptions. For more detailed information and to view the announcement, please go here.

USCIS Ends Bridge Application Requirement for Change of Status to F-1

Effective July 20, 2021, USCIS eliminated a prior policy that required applicants applying to change their status to F-1 student to file "bridge" applications while their change of status to F-1 applications were pending. For the USCIS news release, please go here. For more detailed information, please go here.

National Interest Exceptions to include certain travelers from India

Due to the high volume of COVID cases in India, a travel ban on India will go into effect at 12:01am on Tuesday, May4th. However, on April 30, 2021, the Department of State extended the same set of National Interest Exceptions to India that he had previously applied to all other regional travel restrictions currently in effect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students seeking to commence or continue their studies in the fall, certain academics, journalists, and individuals who provide critical infrastructure support in countries affected by a geographic COVID-19 restriction may qualify for a National Interest Exception. This now includes qualified applicants who have been present in India.

National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of State extended the National Interest Exceptions (NIE) to include additional countries. The countries are: Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen area, South Africa and the United Kingdom.  

Students with valid F-1 visas intending to begin or continue their academic program starting August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. Students applying for a new F-1 visa stamp and who are otherwise found to qualify, will automatically be considered for a NIE in order to travel after the visa issuance.

The NIE announcement refers only to entry “no earlier than 30 days before the start of academic studies.” Therefore, it is unclear how this applies to F-1 OPT/STEM OPT student entry. We will continue to update you as more information becomes available. 

USCIS Updates on the delayed processing of receipt notices for post-OPT and STEM OPT applications

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been very delayed in processing and sending receipts for OPT and STEM OPT applications. As a result of advocacy on the part of students, school officials and partner organizations, together with court litigation, on February 26, 2021, USCIS announced flexibilities for students impacted by these receipt delays. 

Please note that these flexibilities apply only to applications received on or after October 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021. In summary, for elgible applicants, USCIS will offer the following flexibilities:

  • Retain the original filing date of a rejected filing if an applicant refiles his or her rejected application.
  • Allow the 14-month period during which the 12 months of standard post-completion OPT must be completed, to start following the approval of the EAD, rather than the program end date. If you receive an approval with less than the full 12 month amount of OPT time requested, you can request a correction of the EAD due to USCIS error. USCIS will issue a corrected EAD with a new end date to cover the full amount of OPT time recommended in the original application.
  • Although lockboxes will continue to reject OPT applications with a missing or deficient signature, if such an application is accepted by the lockbox and makes its way to a USCIS adjudicator, USCIS will issue an RFE for the proper signature instead of denying the application.


Effective January 30, 2021, the Proclamation issued by President Biden continues the 14-day U.S. entry restrictions on individuals who were recently present in certain countries.  

Read the proclamation here. The countries include Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, Schengen area, United Kingdom and now South Africa has been added to the list.


President Biden revokes the "Muslim and African travel bans" (travel ban 4.0 and 3.0) and initiates other executive orders on the first day of his Presidency, January 20, 2021

  • Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States can be accessed here. This procalmation revokes the "Muslim and African" travel bans.
  • Regulatory Freeze Pending Review can be accessed here. This sets a temporary stop on implementation of "midnight" regulations and polices issued by the Trump administration, to give the Biden administration time to review those regulations and policies.
  • Executive Order on Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation can be accessed here.  
  • Executive Order on the Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities can be accessed here. January 20, 2021. Executive Order. Rescinds Executive Order 13768 of January 25, 2017 (Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States), to "reset the policies and practices for enforcing civil immigration laws to align enforcement" with the Biden administrations "values and priorities" that include: "protect national and border security, address the humanitarian challenges at the southern border, and ensure public health and safety. We must also adhere to due process of law as we safeguard the dignity and well-being of all families and communities."
  • Reinstating Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians can be accessed here. Reinstates DED for eligibile Liberians until June 30, 2022.


“National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland,” issued July 22, 2020 

COVID-19-related travel bans remain in place for several countries and regions. The Department of State released updated guidance on July 22, 2020, stating that certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students may qualify for national interest exceptions.


  • Business travelers, investors, academics, J-1 students, and treaty traders who have a valid visa or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) issued before Presidential Proclamation 9993 or 9996’s effective date or who are seeking to apply for a visa and believe they may qualify for a national interest exception should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling.
  • The Department of State also continues to grant national interest exceptions for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.
  • As noted above, students traveling from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should 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 a national interest exception to travel.

New Presidential Proclamation of June 22nd

On Monday, June 22nd, 2020, President Trump signed a new Executive Order, “Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak”. This order took effect at 12:01 a.m. on June 24th, 2020. 

This proclamation does NOT impact F-1 students (including those on OPT/STEM OPT) or J-1 students, Research Scholars, Short Term Scholars, and Specialists. It also does NOT apply to any individual with H-1B status or with a pending H-1B initial or extension application, who is currently in the United States.

The proclamation DOES impact anyone outside the United States without a valid visa and/or travel document in the following visa categories: H-1B or H2B and their dependents; L and their dependents; J-1 in the following categories: Au Pair, Camp Counselor, Intern, Summer Work, Trainee, Teacher and their dependents. 


Essential Travel Restrictions for Canada and Mexico

Effective March 24, 2020, travel to the United States from Canada and Mexico at land ports of entry is reserved for "essential" travel only. Those traveling to pursue studies or engage in employment in the United States are considered "essential". 


Routine Visa Services Suspended at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide

Effective March 20, 2020, the Department of State is suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments. They will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. Routine visa services will resume as soon as possible but no specific date has been provided at this time. To find an embassy or consulate please go to https://www.usembassy.gov/ to confirm operating status, appointment scheduling/rescheduling and emergency services. 


United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland Entry Restrictions to the United States

As of March 14, 2020 Presidential Proclamation imposes an an entry ban on nonimmigrants and immigrants who have recently traveled to the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Effective "at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 16, 2020. This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 16, 2020."


Restricted Entry into U.S. on Foreign Nationals who have been in European Schengen Area

On March 11, 2020 - Presidential Proclamation was announced, stating:"The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation... This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020. This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020." President Trump said the ban would last 30 days, but the proclamation language states that it “shall remain in effect until terminated by the President.”

  • Note: the European Schengen area includes: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The list does not include the United Kingdom.


U.S. Imposing Travel Restrictions on Foreign Nationals who have been in Iran

Effective on Monday, March 2nd at 5p.m., the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended.

Please continue to contact ISSS with questions about SJSU-related travel to or from an area with confirmed cases of coronavirusat international-office@sjsu.edu.


U.S. Imposing Travel Restrictions on Foreign Nationals who have been in China

The coronavirus outbreak began in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. A number of countries, including the United States, have been actively screening incoming travelers from China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised their travel advisory to a level 3: CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. 


On January 31, 2020, U.S. Health and Human Services announced that the United States is temporarily suspending the entry into the United States of foreign nationals who have been in China during the prior 14-day period, over concerns of the risk of transmitting the 2019 novel coronavirus. In addition, any U.S. citizen who has been in the Hubei Province of China during the 14-day period prior to entering the U.S. will face a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon return to the U.S. For up to date information on the coronovirus, please go here.

For information about this evolving public health situation, visit the CDC’s 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Please also refer to NAFSA’s website devoted to this topic.
Anyone with questions about SJSU-related travel to or from an area with confirmed cases of coronavirus can contact the ISSS office at international-office@sjsu.edu.


Updated "travel ban" does not impact F-1 student and J-1 student and scholar categories

President Trump's most recent Presidential Proclamation entitled Proclamation on Improving Enhanced Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry issued on 01/31/2020 is set to take effect on February 21, 2020. This new proclamation restricts entry on immigrant visas (employment-based, family-based, Diversity Visa-based immigrants) for citizens and nationals of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and  Nigeria. It also restricts as "diversity immigrants" for citizens and nationals of Sudan and Tanzania. 

Currently, F-1 students and J-1 students and scholars are not impacted. However, as current U.S. immigration policy is fluid, ISSS suggests extra caution for individuals from the six countries choosing to travel, and recommends #talktous prior to departure from the United States. 


Unlawful Presence and F, J and M Nonimmigrants

On May 3, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that temporarily prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from enforcing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) August 8, 2018 policy memo that sought to change how days of unlawful presence are counted following a violation of F, M, or J nonimmigrant status.

For more detailed information, please refer to NAFSA's summary of the Unlawful Presence policy.


Travel Ban 3.0

On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court announced that it upheld The Presidential Proclamation 9645, which provides country-specific entry restrictions for citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. As of June 26, 2018, this Proclamation and travel restrictions remain in effect indefinitely.

What does this mean and who is impacted?

The Proclamation cites country-specific entry restrictions for nationals of the different impacted countries. Individuals from all impacted countries should expect increased scrutiny and screening no matter which visa categories are suspended.

  • North Korea, Syria and Somalia- Entry is indefinitely suspended for all immigrant and non-immigrant visa categories.
  • Chad, Libya and Yemen- Entry in B-1, B-2 and B-1/B-2 visas and diversity/immigrant visas is suspended.
  • Iran- Entry in all non-immigrant categories is suspended– except F,M, and J exchange visitor visas. F,M, and J visa exchange visitors will be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements. Entry for diversity/immigrant visas is also suspended.
  • Venezuela- All Venezuelan nationals who are visa holders may face increased screening and scrutiny. Entry is specifically suspended only for B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas for officials of the following government agencies Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace; the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration, and Immigration; the Corps of Scientific Investigations, Judicial and Criminal; the Bolivarian Intelligence Service; and the People’s Power Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and their immediate family members.

Are visas revoked for individuals from the 8 designated countries? The order does NOT revoke existing visas for nationals or citizens of the designated countries.

Are there impacts for individuals from all countries?

ISSS recommends minimizing international travel due to the changing nature of the new administration’s policies on visas and U.S. entry.

  • Increased screenings and potential travel delays- The Proclamation specifically indicates increased scrutiny for Iraqi citizens or nationals. Due to the P.P’s call for increased scrutiny at the Port of Entry and at consulates and embassies abroad, all travelers, immigrant and non-immigrant should expect increased travel delays when applying for a new U.S. visa or when entering the U.S.
  • Future changes in visa Issuance for additional countries- Provisions of the Proclamation order call for ongoing review of U.S. visa issuance procedures for all countries. These continuing revisions and reviews may result in countries being continued on, added to or removed from the visa/entry suspension list, changes in fees, or visa lengths.

For more detailed information, please refer to NAFSA’s website devoted to this topic.

Please know that all of us at ISSS understand that these changes can be stressful. However, we reassure you that we are here to provide you with guidance and support and will inform you with updates through email and on our website. In the meantime, please contact our office if we can be of any assistance.