You’ve applied to a U.S. college, been accepted, applied for your visa, and started to prepare for your exciting new life as a student in the United States. But one thing remains: what about COVID-19 and what effect will it have on your studies there?
Here are some common questions about COVID-19 that many students might have before coming to the United States to study.
The U.S has closed its borders to many foreign nationals during the pandemic. Can I still get a U.S. visa?
If you have already obtained an F1 visa that has not yet expired, you should be able to travel to the United States. Although there are travel bans for certain countries due to high rates of COVID-19 infections (see here for the updated U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) list) and if you live in or are from a country on that list, you will need to apply for a National Interest Exception (NIE) policy for F and J visas. This means that you can be granted a visa, but, unless the travel ban is lifted for your country, your visa will only be valid for a single entry to the United States. If you leave, you will need to apply for another NIE.
More information about the NIE is available from the State Department website.
Is COVID-19 still a public health problem in the United States?
Yes, COVID-19 remains a public health issue across most of the United States. Some areas are more affected than others, and with the increased spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant, more and more states are seeing increased COVID-19 cases. Make sure you check the local health department of the town, city, county, or state where your college is located for more information.
Do I need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend my U.S. college?
It depends. Some colleges have required that students show proof of vaccination to be able to attend and others have not. Typically, there are exemptions from vaccination for certain people. Check with your U.S. college for their individual policy.
What proof of vaccination will U.S. colleges accept?
The exact policy will depend on the individual college but typically they require that you submit a document proving that you have been vaccinated. Check with your U.S. college for their individual policy.
Do colleges require routine COVID-19 tests?
It depends on the individual college — some require mandatory testing, others don’t, and some exempt students that are vaccinated. Check with your U.S. college for their individual policy.
Can I get a COVID-19 vaccination in the United States?
Yes, you can get a vaccine in the United States. Check out Vaccines.gov for locations that are offering the vaccine.
Will my learning be in-person or online?
Some colleges are offering only in-person classes, some remain fully remote, while others are offering a hybrid of both. Check with your U.S. college for their individual policy.
What can I do to stay up-to-date with the changing situation at my college?
Here are three things that you can do to stay as up-to-date as possible:
1. Be on top of your communication with your college. Make sure that you check your emails regularly, just in case they send important information to you.
2. Stay in touch with the international office at your college. They will know the evolving landscape of U.S. visas and rules. Make sure that you reach out to them if you have any questions.
3. Attend all meetings that your college organizes before your departure, during which important information might be shared.
Is it safe to travel domestically in the United States?
Most of the United States has no travel restrictions in place and public transport is operating as usual. However, just because you can travel, doesn’t mean you should. Follow all safety precautions and check local COVID-19 conditions before you start your journey.
Should I bring a mask with me?
Absolutely. Masks are still required in some situations (for example, on public transport or in certain official buildings) and some states are re-instituting a mask mandate. Check with your local authority for the most recent updates for the place you are studying in.