Get. Set. Fly..!

Students Travelling during COVID
Planning to study abroad? Here’s a quick run through of the rules and offerings for international students across the globe.

This article first appeared in the Hindu on July 17, 2021.

While many students with admissions to foreign universities spent hours dreaming of saying hello to a new world while taking online classes at odd hours, others deferred their admissions for a gap year, as they waited for the pandemic to pass. 

And then the second wave struck. But there is a bright side: several countries are opening physical campuses and offering visas to fully vaccinated students. Here’s a look at what’s on offer in different countries. 


While Canada has just gotten out of a third wave, it has built processes to allow foreign students in. The rule states, “Upon arrival, international students must be able to demonstrate that they have a plan in place to support their initial 14-day mandatory quarantine or isolation period in Canada as well as submit the required contact and address information.” Before applying for the student visa, ensure that your institution comes under the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) list of PT approved Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs).

Bottomline: If your institute if in the IRCC list, you can go with a negative test and quarantine at your own cost on arrival.

The U.S.

While non-immigrant international travel from India remains suspended, international students get a pass with the National Interest Exception Rule, which looks at student visas on a case-by-case basis. Students should apply for the F1 visa 120 days before the start date mentioned on the I-20 form and travel only 30 days from the start of the progamme. However, if your university is offering 100% online semester, your visa could be rejected. Therefore, ensure the programme is either hybrid or 100% on campus before the visa interview. 

Bottomline: Visas are granted on case-by-case basis for hybrid or fully on-campus programmes. You are advised to self-isolate / quarantine for 14 days after you arrive.

The U.K.

Since India is under the red list, the following rules have to be followed. Before travelling, you have to take a COVID-19 test, book a quarantine hotel package that includes two tests and complete a passenger locator form. 

Once you reach, you have to quarantine in the managed hotel. Currently, the U.K. does not accept travellers from red list countries unless they have proof of residence or valid student visa.

Universities UK International (UUKI) advises students holding an offer for a U.K. university this year to contact their chosen institution to find out more about plans for September. 

The good news: many universities have announced they will reimburse the hotel quarantine and testing fees, up to £1,750. 

Bottomline: The process is quite detailed with a negative test, testing kits and a mandatory quarantine but some universities are offering to cover quarantine costs. 


Currently, Australian borders are closed for international students. The government has said it will call some students through an approved International Student Arrival Plan, which will include travel and quarantine arrangement. However, this is still to be decide. Check with your institutes to see if they are part of this plan.

Bottomline: Borders are closed but a plan is being firmed up for students to travel.

Singapore, Germany, Netherlands

Students travelling to these countries need to have a valid offer letter from an educational institution stating that the mode of education cannot be online. Then they will be granted a student visa/pass. The travel will include quarantine and COVID-19 tests. 

Bottomline: If you have a valid offer letter for an on-campus course, you can go with a negative test and quarantine at your own expense.

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