USC international students react to White House lifting COVID-19 travel ban

The restrictions, which were in place for the past year and a half, prevented many students from travelling home to see their families.

The White House announced on Monday that international travel restrictions will be lifted in November for fully vaccinated individuals from 33 countries.

These restrictions prevented people in these countries from entering the United States and have been enforced for the past 18 months. They were imposed through a Trump administration executive order at the start of the pandemic.

The 33 countries include the United Kingdom and the 26 European countries in the Schengen Area, as well as Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India.

This goes against previous guidance from White House coronavirus coordinator, Jeff Zients, who said publicly in a press briefing last week that the Biden administration was “maintaining the existing travel restrictions at this point.”

The White House lifting travel restrictions, however, does come with certain precautions put in place to keep individuals safe. In order to travel to the U.S., travelers must show a negative COVID test within three days of their departure and give airlines their contact information for contact tracing purposes.

Several USC international students were relieved by these restrictions ending saying their experience with traveling across borders to attend school was an immense challenge.

“It was difficult because of the travel ban for anyone to come in. So in my experience, I had a long wait to get my visa renewed,” said computer science major Rajat Tandon, originally from India.

Junior Paul Chen from Taiwan was concerned that these restrictions could have prevented him from flying to the United States.

“I was actually a little bit scared. It’s like I might not be able to go back to school,” Chen said.

These restrictions have exacerbated the distance between USC international students and their families.

However, not all students were comfortable with the lifting of the restrictions. Chen Chi-An, a freshman from Taiwan, was surprised by the news, citing concerns about the continuing spread of the delta variant.

“There are still serious issues concerning the pandemic all around the world and I don’t think being fully vaccinated should be the only consideration the government is taking,” Chi-An said.

The lifting of the restrictions comes at a time when the United States has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission in the world. According to Our World In Data, the seven-day rolling average of confirmed new COVID-19 cases in the United States is about 147,000.

Chen said that these restrictions were hypocritical in the first place given the difference in positivity rates between the U.S. and the 33 countries that were restricted from traveling to the U.S.previously-banned countries, but he also understood it from a political perspective: “They’d rather have Americans being infected by Americans, instead of people from outside the country,” he said.