Facilitating legitimate travel top priority: US diplomat on allowing students

New Delhi, Jun 13 (PTI):
The US mission in India is “actively working” to accommodate as many student visa applicants as possible in July and August, and facilitating their legitimate travel remained a top priority for it, a senior American diplomat said on Sunday.
Don Heflin, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the US embassy, also said that the US-bound students will not require any proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the country. They will need a negative report of their COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to their departure.
There has been growing anxiety among a sizeable number of Indian students aspiring to fly to the US for higher studies in view of certain restrictions in getting visa appointments due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The embassy will start giving visa interview slots for Indian students from Monday.
“We recognise the stress and anxiety this has caused to students and their families, and we are actively working to accommodate as many student visa applicants as possible in July and August. Facilitating legitimate student travel to the United States remains a top priority for the US Mission to India,” Heflin told PTI in an interview.
The official was asked about the rising uncertainty among the Indian students wanting to travel to the US, which had imposed fresh travel restrictions in May.
“Students returning to academic programmes that resume on or after August 1 may travel to the United States up to 30 days before the programme resumes. There is no National Interest Exception required in this situation,” he said.
“We recommend continuing students discuss their specific resumption plans with their respective universities to develop a travel timeline,” Heflin said.
The National Interest Exceptions (NIE) allow travel to the US for persons whose entry is considered of national interest. “We intend to start an intensive two months of interviewing student visa applicants on July 1. We will plan to open as many appointments as we can safely accommodate, based on local pandemic conditions across India,” Heflin said.
“Student visa applicants do not need an expedited appointment to schedule their visa interview. On June 14, we will open July and August appointments for students,” he added.
Asked about apprehensions relating to vaccination, the official said proof of vaccination is not required to enter the United States.
“Please note that proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, taken within 72 hours of your flight’s departure, is required to board a flight and for entry into the United States.
“While proof of vaccination is not required to enter the United States, individual schools or institutions may set their own requirements. The US education system operates independently from the federal government, and students should consult closely with their host institution to ensure compliance with individual vaccination requirements,” he added.

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