Starting November 8, 2021, the U.S. will replace its current country-by-country COVID-19 travel restrictions with a requirement that foreign nationals entering in a temporary (nonimmigrant) status be fully vaccinated before entering the U.S. The vaccination requirement will not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (green card holders). Certain exemptions will be available, including for children under 18, those with medical contraindications to the vaccine, and those traveling from countries with low vaccine availability. While these changes currently apply only to incoming air travel, including from Canada and Mexico, we expect similar guidance in the coming weeks with respect to land border crossings.
On October 25, 2021, President Biden issued a presidential proclamation rescinding the COVID-19 related travel bans imposed on foreign nationals present in China, Iran, the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India. The proclamation replaces these restrictions with a general vaccination requirement for foreign nationals, subject to limited exemptions. The new travel policy is based on guidance developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
New Vaccination Requirement
Beginning November 8, 2021, all nonimmigrant travelers (with limited exceptions) must provide proof of a full COVID-19 vaccine series before boarding a flight to the U.S. A nonimmigrant means someone entering the United States in a temporary visa status such as B (including ESTA), H, L, O, P, E, R, TN, etc. Only vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted. Currently, this includes the following vaccines: Moderna, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm, and Sinovac.
Both digital and paper documentation will be acceptable forms of proof of vaccination, provided the documentation includes the following:
- Personal identifiers (at a minimum, full name and date of birth) that match the personal identifiers on the passenger’s passport or other travel documents
- Name of official source issuing the record (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider)
- Vaccine manufacturer and date(s) of vaccination
Exemptions to the Vaccination Requirement
As noted, the vaccination requirement applies only to nonimmigrants and does not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or U.S. lawful permanent residents (green card holders). Even if subject to the restriction as a nonimmigrant, the following individuals are exempt from the vaccination requirement:
- Children under 18 years of age
- 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
- Persons on diplomatic or official foreign government travel
- Members of the U.S. 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)
Depending on the basis for their exemption, certain unvaccinated individuals must agree to become fully vaccinated within 60 days of arriving in the U.S. Further requirements such as self-quarantine for seven days, self-isolation after a positive test result, or additional testing upon arrival may be required based on the individual’s exemption category.
COVID-19 Testing Requirements
In addition to the vaccine requirement, all international travelers ages 2 or older (including U.S. citizens) must provide a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to the U.S. For fully vaccinated travelers, the test must be conducted within three days before the flight’s departure. For unvaccinated travelers, the test must be conducted within one day before the flight’s departure.
This travel policy will remain in effect until terminated by the President of the United States. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will provide a recommendation by the final day of each month on whether to continue, modify, or terminate the proclamation.
Please contact any member of our Immigration practice group if you have any questions regarding the requirements described above at 585.232.6500.