Biden lifts COVID-19 travel restrictions for Chinese students, providing a lifeline to U.S. colleges

The Biden Administration announced it would lift a pandemic-era travel restriction that prohibited Chinese students from entering the U.S., potentially providing a much-needed financial injection for U.S. colleges. But ongoing political tensions between China and the U.S. that predate COVID-19 may mean Chinese students are less willing to study in the U.S. than in past years.

“Students seeking to commence studies in the fall [from] countries affected by a geographic COVID-19 restriction may now qualify for a National Interest Exception. This includes qualified applicants who have been present in Brazil, China, Iran, or South Africa,” the State Department said in a statement.

The Trump administration imposed a travel ban on students entering the U.S. from China in January 2020, as the pandemic began to spread from Wuhan. Chinese students ordinarily account for the largest share of international students at U.S. higher-ed institutions, claiming 35% of international seats in the 2019-2020 academic year. But visa restrictions, as well as the closure of U.S. consulates overseas, roadblocked the application process.

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