The State Department appears to be softening its blanket travel ban on entry to the U.S., starting with European students and some family members of visa holders in the U.S.
Foreign students coming from Europe are exempt from a travel ban the United States imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. State Department told congressional offices on Thursday.
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 and seen by Reuters.
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 travellers 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 travellers from the United States, where coronavirus cases have risen rapidly in recent weeks, remain banned.
The U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Additional reporting by Eric Beech in Washington and Kristina Cooke in Los Angeles; Editing by Tom Hogue and Peter Cooney)
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Photo credit: European students who have a visa will be allowed to enter the U.S. unipavia / Flickr