Biden Administration Ends COVID-19 Travel Ban and Implements New International Air Travel Policy

Alerts / November 5, 2021

The Biden administration recently published an international air travel policy regarding COVID-19 vaccination requirements following its order revoking long-standing country-specific travel bans on China, Iran, Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and India. All travel bans will be lifted effective Nov. 8, 2021, subject to the new COVID-19 international air travel policy.

New Rules for International Air Travelers

Beginning Nov. 8, 2021, all nonimmigrant foreign nationals traveling by air to the U.S. must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination status from an official source (e.g., public health or government agency) and a negative COVID-19 test result from a sample taken within 72 hours prior to departure. Nonimmigrant foreign nationals include, without limitation, students, temporary workers, temporary business visitors and tourists.

The new policy provides:

  • Acceptable vaccines include all Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved or authorized vaccines and World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines.
  • An individual is fully vaccinated:
    • 14 days after an acceptable single-dose vaccine.
    • 14 days after the second dose of an acceptable two-dose vaccine.
    • 14 days after receipt of any combination of two doses of any FDA approved/authorized or WHO EUL COVID-19 two-dose series vaccines provided the doses were administered at least 17 days apart.
  • Acceptable COVID-19 tests include nucleic acid amplification tests, such as a PCR test, and antigen tests.

Nonimmigrant foreign nationals who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are suspended from entry to the U.S. through international air travel except in limited circumstances. The limited exceptions include:

  • All children under 18. Children ages 2-17 are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure subject to the following guidelines:
    • If traveling with a fully vaccinated adult (with proof of vaccination), an unvaccinated child may provide a negative COVID-19 test result from a sample taken within 72 hours of departure.
    • If the child is alone or with an unvaccinated adult, the negative COVID-19 test result must be from a sample taken within 24 hours of departure.
  • COVID-19 clinical trial participants.
  • Individuals with proven medical contraindications to the vaccines.
  • Emergency or humanitarian travelers (with U.S. government-issued authorization).
  • Individuals traveling on nontourist visas from a country with low vaccine availability as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Any noncitizen who is a member of the U.S. military or who is the spouse or child of a member of the U.S. military. 
  • Any noncitizen seeking entry as an air or sea crew member if such crew member adheres to all industry-standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19.
  • Any noncitizen whose entry would be in the national interest of the United States.

Any nonimmigrant exempt from the vaccination requirement is still required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departure. Additionally, nonimmigrants exempt from the vaccination requirement will be required to attest that they will comply with applicable U.S. public health requirements, including testing, mask-wearing, self-quarantine, self-isolation and a requirement that they be vaccinated in the U.S. if the intended stay exceeds 60 days (with very narrow exceptions).

U.S. citizens (USCs) and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are not subject to the vaccination requirement. However, they are still subject to the following COVID-19 testing requirements:

  • Unvaccinated USCs and LPRs must provide a negative COVID-19 test result from a sample taken within 24 hours of departure.
  • Vaccinated USCs and LPRs must show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test result from a sample taken within 72 hours of departure.
New Rules for Travelers Arriving by Land or Ferry From Mexico or Canada

Since March 2020, essential business travel has been permitted for Canadian and Mexican nationals. Separate restrictions on nonessential business travel from Canada and Mexico will remain in effect until Jan. 21, 2022. However, on Nov. 8, 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) will begin allowing fully vaccinated nonessential travelers from Mexico or Canada to enter the United States at land and ferry ports of entry. 

Beginning in early January 2022, all foreign national travelers for both essential and nonessential travel crossing U.S. land or ferry ports of entry must be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination. USCBP will publish more information regarding land travel, including COVID-19 testing requirements, in the coming days.

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