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International students can now return home and invite family members to DC for visits after the United States lifted travel restrictions in more than 30 countries earlier this month.
Federal officials lifted travel bans in countries such as Brazil, China, South Africa, India and much of Europe earlier this month, removing restrictions imposed when the country closed travel to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. 2020. International students said the removal of travel bans will allow them to host their loved ones on campus for events such as the start and return home for the holiday season amid the uncertainty surrounding security. of global travel.
The decision to ease travel restrictions comes almost a year after the Food and Drug Administration issued its first emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in December before granting subsequent authorization. for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Officials still demand vaccination tests and a negative COVID-19 test for travelers, despite more flexible restrictions.
João Cardoso, a freshman specializing in international affairs in Brazil, said the removal of travel bans was a “relief” because traveling to the United States will be easier for his family, who no longer you will need to obtain visas to enter the country.
“I think it became clear that it will be much easier to make this trip,” he said. “There aren’t that many restrictions there, and it’s also easier for people to come here. So it’s easier for family members to come visit if we need help with something. So it was a great relief.”
Officials said earlier this month that they are developing outreach and recruitment strategies for international students in hopes of offsetting the recent drop in international student enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jay Goff, the vice chancellor for student enrollment and student success, said at a Senate Senate meeting last month that travel restrictions around the world likely caused a 7.5 percent drop in enrollment of international students this fall after national totals fell 72 percent during the last academic year.
Cardoso said the United States was not processing many visas while there were travel restrictions, lengthening the process for visiting family members. He he said it will take longer for his family members to see that he could not travel to the United States without a visa.
Nicholas Anastacio | Graphic editor
He said he has “hope” that federal officials will expedite the visa process while there are fewer travel restrictions.
“I have friends who are from the United States who can come home for a weekend or something, or if they live a little further away, they can go there for a long vacation,” he said. “But that’s not really an option for me, and it’s not really an option for my family. But now that the restrictions have been lifted, my parents can come and visit me.”
Cardoso said he has felt isolated from his parents, interacting with them digitally through platforms like WhatsApp since he moved to campus in August. But the lifting of travel restrictions have opened up the opportunity for him to meet with them this January, he said.
“What has been difficult, obviously there is a big factor of nostalgia and that kind of thing, and being apart, I would say that when it comes to travel restrictions, I think a big difficulty is that it will take a long time. people come home to get visas, ”he said.
Mason Liu, a senior Chinese business analyst, said that while the lifting of travel bans will not personally affect your travel options, your friends who are international students can now travel home and see the his family during breaks. He said his friends in Australia are booking flights to travel home during the winter holidays to visit family and friends they hadn’t seen since August before moving there.
“My Australian friends will be back home for sure, and they feel very happy and content,” he said. “They have recently been changing their travel options. They never planned to return in the winter, but after an uprising they changed their plan.”
Although the ban on traveling to China was lifted, Liu was unable to make new plans to return to China because the country’s mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine would have made it difficult for him to visit his family. He said he hopes the pandemic will be more controlled in the spring so that China’s travel restrictions can be eased and his family can fly to DC to watch him graduate.
“I hope they can do it this year, and I hope everything goes better and better in the coming months,” he said.
Gerald Keusch, professor of international medicine and health and associate director of National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratories at Boston University, said federal officials lifted travel bans because they were ineffective and costly.
“We’re well into the outbreak,” he said. “The costs and benefits, the potential for the introduction of the virus compared to tourism, travel, trade, family, etc. means that the benefits outweigh the risks, and I think that’s the kind of thing that weighs. “.
He said the effectiveness of the vaccine and the limitation of coronavirus variants will determine how the removal of the travel ban continues.
“It’s one of those situations where you say, it’s not if but when,” he said. “That’s why the use of public health measures that some people in our country seem to have difficulty accepting – wearing masks, limiting proximity to large crowds, getting vaccinated, being careful who they interact with – help drive continuous transmission of the variants we have now ”.
Erika Filter contributed to the reports.
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