After much anticipation, the White House announced plans to rescind the geographic COVID-19 travel bans and modify restrictions on all international travelers to focus on proof of vaccination. In place of the travel bans and beginning in early November, international travelers will be required to prove they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a U.S. bound flight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will issue guidance as to which vaccinations will be accepted.
Pursuant to Presidential Proclamations first issued in January 2020, the United States imposed COVID-related travel restrictions and suspended the entry of noncitizens who were physically present in 33 countries including China, Iran, the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and India. These Proclamations did not apply to certain individuals including: U.S. citizens; lawful permanent residents; spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents; parents or legal guardians of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident unmarried minor child; siblings of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident child, provided both are unmarried and under the age of 21; as well as others including travelers whose entry would be in the national interest.
Over the past year and half, the Trump and Biden administrations have issued multiple interpretations and policy changes relating to the National Interest Exceptions (NIEs). Recently, extending the validity of NIEs for 12 months from the date of approval and for multiple entries.
In the coming weeks, the Administration will issue formal guidance and regulations relating to these new requirements. Based on recent announcements and press briefings, the following is a broad summary of the new entry requirements:
- Starting in early November, non-citizens traveling to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to show proof of vaccination prior to boarding a U.S. bound airplane.
- These requirements will apply globally not just to the 33 countries covered under the current Proclamations.
- The current CDC requirement for all travelers to show proof of a negative COVID test taken within 3 days of travel will remain in place for all fully vaccinated travelers.
- CDC will continue to strongly recommend against air travel by Americans who are not fully vaccinated; however, all unvaccinated U.S. Citizen and lawful permanent resident travelers who return to the United States will be required to, prior to boarding an airplane:
- Provide proof of a negative test result taken within 1 day of their departure; and
- Provide proof that they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival.
- CDC will also issue a Contact Tracing Order that will require airlines to collect contact information for every passenger coming to the United States and to provide that information promptly to CDC upon request and to follow up with travelers who have been exposed to COVID-19 variants or other pathogens.
There will be very narrow exceptions to the vaccination requirements for non-citizens. Exceptions are likely to include:
- COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants; or
- Humanitarian exceptions for people traveling for an important reason or who lack access to vaccinations in a timely manner.
Most individuals that receive one of these limited exceptions will be required to agree to get vaccinated upon arrival in the United States.
Please stay tuned as we continue to monitor and provide updates as they are released.