September 24, 2021

COVID-19 Travel to the United States: International Travel Restrictions May Be Eased From November 2021

Note: This alert was updated on October 26, 2021, to detail a White House proclamation on the resumption of global travel. It had previously been updated on October 12, 2021, to reflect new guidance on which vaccines the U.S. government will recognize.

On September 20, 2021 the international press began to report that the U.S. government plans to ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors flying internationally into the United States beginning in November 2021. However, to date, the official U.S. government policy has not been released.

What were the previous entry restrictions?

Since March 2020, travellers who have been in the European Schengen countries or the United Kingdom (as well as some other countries specified, including India, China and South Africa) within the preceding 14 days have been banned from flying directly into the United States unless they were either a U.S. citizen, a green card holder, or an applicable family member, or they first applied for and received a National Interest Exception (NIE).

If the United States does ease restrictions in early November 2021, it is anticipated that the NIE will no longer be required from travellers from specified countries, which are anticipated to include the United Kingdom and Schengen countries.

What might the rules be from November 2021?

Subject to official confirmation, from November international travellers are expected to be able to fly directly into the United States from the specified countries, provided:

  • They are fully vaccinated by a recognized COVID-19 vaccine and can provide suitable evidence of that vaccination prior to boarding their flight; and
  • They can provide evidence of a suitable negative COVID test result taken within 3 days prior to boarding their flight.

Which vaccines will be recognized? (Updated as of October 12, 2021)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed on October 11, 2021, that recognized vaccines will be those that are approved or authorized by either the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO). At the time of this update, these are as follows:

  • FDA: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech.
  • WHO: In addition to the three listed above, also Oxford-AstraZeneca/Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

It appears that as vaccines are added by the FDA and WHO to their respective lists that these should be accepted for international travelers seeking to travel to the United States. However, clarification on this point is still awaited.

What’s in the October 25 White House travel proclamation? (Updated as of October 26, 2021)

The White House issued a proclamation yesterday regarding the resumption of global travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key points of the proclamation include:

  • Prior COVID-related travel bans prohibiting direct travel from certain countries to the United States will end on November 8, 2021. Air travel policy will now rely primarily on vaccination status rather than country of departure.
  • Entry will be permitted for fully vaccinated (by an approved vaccine) noncitizen nonimmigrants.
  • Entry will be suspended for unvaccinated noncitizen nonimmigrants, except in limited circumstances. In the limited circumstances when entry is permitted, entry of unvaccinated noncitizens nonimmigrants must be consistent with CDC requirements and (where appropriate) the individual must agree to be fully vaccinated within 60 days of arrival.
  • Vaccine requirements will not apply to U.S. citizens of Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders).
  • There will be exceptions for children who cannot be vaccinated.
  • There will be exceptions for nonimmigrant work visa holders from countries (listed by the CDC) where COVID vaccines are not readily available (less than 10% of the population vaccinated).

For those who are permitted to travel to the United States, each individual must be able to demonstrate compliance with public health precautions established by the CDC. For example:

  • Evidence of appropriate pre-departure COVID testing.
  • Undertake precautionary measures while traveling such as wearing a mask.
  • Evidence of pre-arrangement for post-arrival COVID testing.
  • Evidence of pre-arrangement for post-arrival self-quarantine or self-isolation.

It is important to remember that the removal of the travels bans does not mean that visa appointments will be immediately available for everyone who wants them.

The Faegre Drinker Immigration and Global Mobility Team will publish further updates when the official policy is released.

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