It has been a difficult couple of years for college students who had to take remote classes and miss out on the college experience. While it was certainly difficult for American students, it was far more difficult for international students who were unable to travel and had to settle for online classes while still paying full tuition. In certain cases, these classes took place in the middle of the night.
With Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions lifting, international students looking to earn their degree at American universities now must contend with COVID-19 vaccinations. International students need to obtain the correct visa when they are traveling to America for their education. Upon retaining their visa, they must know the restrictions and limits for each. If they require assistance in either understanding or obtaining a visa, they should reach out to an immigration lawyer who can assist them in the process.
Are Colleges Requiring Students to Get Vaccinated?
More than 500 colleges and universities are requiring that students get vaccinated before they attend classes in fall. It should not be difficult for American students. However, for international students, it is a difficult matter altogether as many do not have the same access to the vaccinations as students in the United States. Additionally, not all universities and colleges are accepting the same vaccinations that are currently available.
Which Vaccines are Available Internationally?
There are currently three COVID-19 vaccinations available in the United States that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They include Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. There are five additional vaccines that the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved, and they include three versions of the AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and Sinovac vaccines. In addition, there are several other vaccines that have been created but have not been approved by either the FDA or the WHO.
Which Vaccines are Colleges Accepting?
American colleges and universities are in a difficult situation because the landscape is constantly evolving. There is no consistent plan coming from the schools, so those students who are planning to attend colleges in the states this year should call ahead to find out what that school is doing and what arrangements should be made.
Out of the more than 500 schools requiring vaccinations, there are those that will only permit the vaccines that the FDA approved. There are still others that will accept the eight that have been approved by the WHO. Others will accept any and all COVID-19 vaccinations even if they have not been approved for emergency use by either the FDA or the WHO. Finally, there is also a group that is not requiring vaccinations of any kind.
The schools that have announced that they would accept all vaccines have provided multiple reasons for this controversial decision. Those reasons include:
- Fear about what vaccine students have access to.
- If a vaccine is not accepted, students would have to be quarantined for a few weeks, which would lead them to be behind in their classes.
- Do not know enough about mixing vaccines and the impact of forcing another one into a person.
While these schools are more flexible about the type of vaccines they will accept, that does not mean they are being careless at the same time. Those students will face greater restrictions than others. They will be required to wear face masks and be subject to stricter Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. It requires individuals to quarantine after they travel or if they have any close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
How can Students Prepare for College?
Given the uncertainty associated with COVID-19 and vaccinations, there might be certain students who will have to undergo screenings and isolation before they can attend class. Here are a few considerations:
- Quarantine: Depending on their vaccination status, certain students might have to be placed in quarantine for a few weeks before the start school, which might take a while. With vaccination policies, colleges and universities vary dramatically on how they accommodate students, with some establishing specific forms for those in quarantine.
- Remote learning: Students who are not vaccinated or vaccinated properly may still have to engage in remote learning until they can receive a vaccination that their local college or university approves. The number of colleges that require a vaccination will only increase when the FDA alters the approval of the three vaccines from emergency use to general use.
- Re-vaccinated: Depending on the school, if a student does not obtain a vaccine approved by the FDA or the WHO or does not receive a full vaccine, they may be required to receive one of the three FDA-approved vaccinations. The CDC recommends that students looking to be re-vaccinated wait 28 days before receiving their first dose.
Students should call their university ahead to find out the specific policy. If quarantining is involved, they might want to make arrangements to head over early if they can so they can get that multi-week process complete by the time classes start.
What Others Concerns Impact International Students?
International students should be making their travel preparations early for school as there could be additional complications that could make traveling more complicated than past years. While the United States has lifted some of its travel bans, there are several that remain in place. In addition, individual countries also have their own travel restrictions in place.
There are areas of the world where there are still travel restrictions, including the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, China, Iran, South Africa, and India. Students from those areas will be able to enter this country under national interest exceptions by the U.S. Department of State.
Students will also still need to obtain a visa to enter the United States to study. There are several types of visas that allow students to obtain certain types of education. These non-immigrant visas include:
- F-1 Visa: This is the most common academic visa, and it allows students to study at an academic program or English Language Program. Students must maintain a minimum of course work and finish their education on time. Those who obtain this visa can also work up to 20 hours while attending school.
- J-1 Visa: This visa is for those who need practical training that they cannot receive in their home country. It has similar restrictions and work flexibility as the F-1 visa.
- M-1 Visa: Students attending a vocational or non-academic facility obtain this type of visa. They are prohibited from working during their training, and they must provide proof they can afford the education and housing necessary.
In terms of travel for international students, the U.S. State Department has said those with F-1 and M-1 visas for academic programs starting August 01, 2021 or later will not have to contact the embassy before they travel. Students are also prohibited from arriving in the United States more than 30 days before the beginning of their academic year.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Work With Students Trying to Get their Education in America
The requirements and regulations for going to college can be confusing, and it can be even more difficult for international students. While trying to figure out which vaccination to get, there are still questions about the proper visa and travel restrictions. If you are having difficulty with your visa, the Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. can help. Call 215-925-4435 or contact us online today to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the state and nationwide.