Indian students will soon start planning their travel to international study destinations, with the autumn session of the 2021 academic year set to begin from August onwards.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and new virus variants cropping up, locations in Europe, United States and Australia are adopting a cautious approach towards permitting foreign students.
Vaccination is a must-have criterion for students to go attend physical lectures in campuses. Here, only vaccines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved list are permissible.
This means that students vaccinated with Bharat Biotech's Covaxin may not be allowed entry.
Apart from this, a slew of regulations have been formed across countries for the entry of international students. Moneycontrol gives you a lowdown on the rules in major destinations:
Institutes across the US are ready to allow international students entry into physical campus programmes from the Fall session onwards. Vaccination will be a required mandate for entry.
For the general masses, there is a travel ban from India to the US. However, the authorities have made an exception in the case of student travellers, with one significant caveat - entry will be provided on a case-to-case basis.
Some institutions are set to begin classes from August onwards. While a 12-16-week gap between two doses of the Covishield vaccine is the set norm in India, the Ministry of Health has made an exception for students planning international travel.
Sameer Patel, a higher education consultant based in Delhi, said that students should apply in advance because a 'blanket approval' process is not being followed.
"Each visa request is being thoroughly scrutinised to check if physical presence on campus is required. Those students who had contracted COVID-19 in the past one to two months may also need to wait for 3-4 months before travel," he added.
France has a set of "Green countries" where cases of COVID-19 are low. These individuals can enter the country without any restrictions. India, however, does not figure on this list. Hence, it wouldn't be an automatic approval process if a student qualifies for a higher education programme.
A case-to-case basis approval will be granted. For this, a student needs to be fully vaccinated and travel will be permitted only after two weeks of the double dose. Again, only those vaccinated with WHO-approved vaccines are eligible for entry.
Those who have contracted COVID-19 in the past 14 days prior to the visa application, are likely to have a 4-6 week waiting period before being considered for travel.
While travel restrictions for Indians continue, there is a proposal to allow international students (including India) with a monthly cap.
A report said that a few Australian locations are planning to allow study travel at a rate of 800 students per month. Limited student travel may be allowed from the last week of July 2021, another report said.
Australian universities are also firming up plans to allow students entry after one vaccination dose, subject to a health check-up. Formal rules on this matter could be notified in July. However, overseas education consultants said that a complete reopening across institutes to international students could take another 6-8 months.
While a blanket vaccination requirement has not been made compulsory, Indian students with a valid visa can travel to the UK to study on campus. This is after an easing of lockdown in that country.
However, since India is among the countries that is on the "red list" with high number of COVID-19 cases, students will have to quarantine for 10 days, their health to be monitored during this period. Students can also register with the on-campus vaccination facilities available across the region.
Close to 25,000 Indian students pursuing medical courses in China have been held back in India since February 2020 when COVID-19 struck. The travel ban from India continues even as vaccination picks up pace.
A report said that Indian students have written to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) seeking an intervention so that they can go back to studying in campuses.
Final-year medical students can only get their degree once they complete 52-week internships at designated hospitals after their fifth year. While students from other regions like South Korea are back to campuses in China, Indian students have not been permitted.
Like the US, Canadian student visas to Indians are being offered on a case-to-case basis. Vaccination from the WHO-approved vaccine list is a pre-condition.
However, once the visa interview slots opened on June 14, there was a sudden rush for bookings which led to technical glitches.
"It is likely that the situation will normalise by July since the rush will go down. However, students vaccinated with Covaxin won't be considered eligible," said Romesh Parekh, founder of HighEd Abroad Consulting.
In India, the MEA has asked students to seek help from its Overseas India Affairs (OIA) division about difficulties they may encounter in reaching their universities abroad for on-campus academic programmes.