The United States is planning to lift restrictions for vaccinated international travellers to visit the country.
The White House announced that a new air travel rule will take effect on November 8. The new system will allow fully vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the country.
The system is set to launch nearly two years after the U.S. began imposing travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The move by the White House will essentially have the U.S. drop its travel ban on dozens of countries while also making entry more challenging for the unvaccinated. The new system will allow entry for foreign nationals only with vaccinations approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and would add testing requirements for unvaccinated Americans.
Entry requirements for foreign nationals
From November 8, non-citizen, non-immigrant air travellers will need to show proof of full vaccination as well as a pre-departure negative coronavirus test taken within three days of travel before they can board a plane to the U.S.
The U.S. will accept nucleic acid amplification tests, including PCR tests, and antigen tests. The rules will go into effect for passengers on planes leaving for the U.S. at or after 12:01 a.m. ET on November 8.
Airlines will collect basic personal contact information from all U.S. bound travelers for contact tracing. Airlines are required to keep the information on hand so the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can reach out to travelers who may have been infected or exposed to COVID-19.
Masking will be required, but there will be no quarantine mandate.
The change will make entering the U.S. possible for travellers from countries now listed on the U.S. travel ban, which prohibits entry for travellers who have been in any of the regions within the past 14 days. The travel ban took effect in early 2020 and includes:
Republic of Ireland
The European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City)
Currently, the U.S. asks international air passengers only to get tested within three days of their flight to the U.S. and show either the negative test result or proof of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding.
New travel rules for land borders
New travel rules will also take effect for foreign nationals arriving by land or passenger ferry.
Starting November 8, fully vaccinated foreign nationals can cross the land borders for non-essential reasons such as tourism or visiting friends and family.
Entry rules along the border will change again in early January, with all travelers – including those traveling for essential purposes – required to show proof of full vaccination.
Foreign travellers will be able to show vaccination status in either a paper or digital format, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will spot-check travellers’ vaccination documents. Foreign nationals will also need appropriate travel documentation to enter the country.
More details on the land border restrictions are expected to be announced in the coming days.
Vaccines U.S. accept for travel
The CDC has announced that vaccines approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and WHO will be accepted for air travel. White House officials expect the CDC to approve the same vaccines for travelers entering the U.S. by land or ferry.
The FDA has authorised three COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use during the pandemic: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech, the last of which has received the FDA’s full stamp of approval.
Vaccines with WHO approval for emergency use are:
Johnson & Johnson
The CDC confirmed that it would accept a mix-and-match approach to vaccinations. Travellers who have any combination of FDA or WHO approved vaccines will be considered fully vaccinated.
The new travel policy does not accept foreign travellers who have had COVID-19 and received just one shot in a two-dose series.
White House Press Secretary,Jen Psaki, said that the administration will “continue to review” its entry requirements.
How the new rules affect kids
Foreign nationals under 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement. Children under two will not need to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test.
Two-year-old children and older travelling with a fully vaccinated adult can test three days prior to departure, while children traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults will need to get tested within one day of departure.
Currently, all air passengers age two or older, including U.S. citizens and permanent residents, need to show a negative coronavirus test to fly to the U.S.
Entry requirements for Americans
The new travel system adds more stringent testing requirements for unvaccinated U.S. travelers.
Starting November 8, unvaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents will need to take a test one day before departure and test again upon arrival in the U.S.
Entry requirements will not change for vaccinated Americans. They will still need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken no more than three days before departure.
Americans will not need to be fully vaccinated to board international flights to the U.S.
There is a limited set of travelers who are exempt from the vaccine requirement for entry.
Children under 18, certain COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants and travelers with adverse reactions to the vaccines – such as people who have had severe anaphylactic allergic reactions to a prior COVID-19 vaccine – will be exempt.
People travelling on non-tourist visas from countries with less than 10% of its population vaccinated who need to enter the U.S. for emergency or humanitarian reasons are also exempt from the vaccine requirement. There are about 50 countries considered to have low vaccine availability at this time.
These exempt travellers will generally need to show that they will comply with public health mandates, including a requirement to be vaccinated in the U.S. if they plan to stay more than 60 days.
The CDC will not give exemptions to people who object the vaccinations due to religious or moral convictions.
There will also be testing accommodations for travellers who can prove they recently recovered from the coronavirus. These travellers will need to show a positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before their flight’s departure and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or public health official saying they are cleared for travel.