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UPDATED: Biden Administration Announces Plans to Rescind COVID-Related Travel Restrictions For All International Travelers to the United States

Updated 10/27/21 with new information from the Biden Administration

The Biden Administration recently provided details regarding its plans to lift COVID-related travel restrictions for all international travelers to the United States. Implementation of the changes depends on the manner of entry into the country.

International Travelers Entering by Land and Ferry Crossings

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that DHS will lift Title 19 restrictions for land and ferry crossings from Canada and Mexico in two phases. Title 19 regulations refer to restrictions on non-essential travel at land borders.

During the first phase, beginning November 8, 2021, DHS will allow non-essential travel for unvaccinated individuals.

During the second phase, beginning early January 2022, DHS will require all foreign travelers (both essential and non-essential) to be fully vaccinated, with minimal exceptions, such as children and humanitarian exceptions for those traveling for urgent reasons and who lack access to vaccination in a timely manner.

International Travelers Entering by Air

The presidential proclamations that have been in place for nearly a year and a half barring entry from over thirty countries will be rescinded on November 8, 2021. The new plan will replace these travel restrictions with the requirement that non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers show proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to board a plane, in addition to proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

When passengers show their vaccination status, airlines will need to 1) match the name and date of birth of the passenger, 2) determine that the record was issued by an official source in the country where the vaccine was given, and 3) determine if the passenger meets the CDC’s definition for fully vaccinated, such as vaccine, doses received, date administered, and site of vaccination (e.g., vaccination clinic, health care facility, etc.) There are limited exceptions to this, such as those described above.

Individuals are considered fully vaccinated if at least 2 weeks have passed since receipt of the last dose if they have received any single dose of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO EUL approved single-dose series (i.e., Janssen), or any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series (i.e., mixing and matching).

Only vaccines that are approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted for international travelers. These include:

  1. FDA Authorized/Approved: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer-BioNTech
  2. WHO Approved: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca/Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac

Other Travel Announcements

Other noteworthy announcements concerning international travel include the following:

  • The current requirement for everyone to show proof of a negative test taken within three days of boarding a flight will remain in place for all fully vaccinated travelers, including Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.
  • CDC will continue to strongly recommend against air travel by Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents who are not fully vaccinated; however, all unvaccinated travelers who return to the United States and are not fully vaccinated will be required to show the following before boarding an airplane:
    • Provide proof of a negative test result taken within one day of their departure;
    • Provide proof that they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival.
  • If a traveler cannot provide proof of full vaccination, will be required to show a negative test within one day of departure.
  • Children under 18 are excepted from the vaccination requirement for foreign travelers, and children between the age of 2 and 17 are required to take a pre-departure test.
  • If children are traveling with a fully vaccinated adult, they can test three days prior to departure. If children travel alone or with an unvaccinated adult, they will need to test within one day of departure.
  • CDC will also issue a Contact Tracing Order that will require airlines to collect comprehensive contact information for every passenger coming to the United States and provide that information promptly to CDC upon request to follow up with travelers exposed COVID-19 variants or other pathogens.

There are still unanswered questions regarding exceptions and what forms of proof of vaccination will be accepted. But the additional details provided above are certainly helpful in making any future travel plans to the United States.

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