October 27, 2021

US Announces Operational Details for Replacement of Travel Bans with Vaccine Mandate


Effective November 8, 2021, the Biden administration will rescind the COVID-19 travel restrictions banning most travel from Europe, Brazil, India, China, Iran and South Africa. In its place, the administration will impose new COVID-19 prevention protocols on all international air travelers, including those coming from countries not previously impacted by the COVID-19 travel bans. On October 25, 2021, the White House provided specific operational details describing how the program will be implemented and who will—and will not—be impacted by the new rules.

  • The new rules will go into effect on November 8 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The rules will apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departs after 12:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on November 8, 2021.
  • Foreign nationals must be fully vaccinated to travel to the United States by plane unless they are lawful permanent residents or traveling on an immigrant visa. Immigrant visa holders have their own vaccination requirement as part of their medical exam. The new vaccination rules do not apply to US citizens or nationals.
  • The vaccination rules will also apply to land and ferry crossings from Canada and Mexico, using a phased approach for essential travelers. Non-essential travelers will be required to show proof of vaccination beginning on November 8, while essential travelers will have until January 2022 to show proof of vaccination.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that vaccines that are Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-authorized or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) will meet the criteria for travel to the United States. The acceptable vaccines currently are:
    • Moderna
    • Pfizer/BioNTech
    • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
    • AstraZeneca
    • Covishield
    • BIBP/Sinopharm
    • Sinovac
  • The CDC has signaled that some mixtures of approved vaccines may be considered acceptable when interpreting vaccine records. Individuals can be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receipt of the last dose of any combination of two doses of an FDA-authorized or WHO-approved two-dose series. The recommended interval between the first and second dose varies by vaccine type.
  • The CDC has described three types of acceptable evidence of vaccination for travel to the United States: verifiable records, non-verifiable paper records and non-verifiable digital records. Examples include vaccination certificates with a QR code; digital pass via smartphone application with QR code (e.g., United Kingdom National Health Service COVID Pass and the European Union Digital COVID Certificate); the CDC vaccination card; and digital photos of vaccination cards or records.
  • There are limited exceptions to the vaccine requirement:
    • Children under 18 years of age
    • Air Crew
    • Persons with documented medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine
    • Participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials
    • Persons issued a humanitarian or emergency exception
    • Persons with valid visas [excluding B-1 (business) or B-2 (tourism) visas] who are citizens of a foreign country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability
    • Members of the US Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age)
    • Sea crew members traveling with a C-1 and D nonimmigrant visa
    • Persons whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Transportation or Secretary of Homeland Security (or their designees)
  • If one is not fully vaccinated and allowed to travel to the United States by air through an exception, the travelers must agree to be tested with a viral test three to five days after arrival, unless the traveler has documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. The traveler must also stay at home or in a hotel room and self-quarantine for a full seven days, even with a negative test, unless the traveler has documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. If the traveler intends to stay in the United States for 60 days or longer, the traveler generally must become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States or as soon as medically appropriate.
  • While US citizens will not need to be fully vaccinated, they will need to present a negative COVID-19 test. All travelers need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status) before flying to the United States. For fully vaccinated travelers, the viral test must be conducted no more than three days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country. For individuals not fully vaccinated, the viral test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than one day before the flight’s departure from a foreign country. Children under two years old do not need to test. There are also accommodations for people who have documented recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
  • Airlines will be required to collect information for every passenger coming to the United States for contact-tracing purposes.

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