UPDATE: On October 15, 2021, the Biden administration confirmed that it will rescind COVID-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated international visitors starting November 8, 2021. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required for both international air and land travel.
Major Policy Shift
Early in the pandemic, the U.S. government began implementing travel restrictions to limit entry to the U.S. from countries with significant COVID-19 outbreaks. The geographic bans currently apply to Schengen Area countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, India, Canada, and Mexico.
Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced its plans to open U.S. land and ferry ports of entry along the Canada and Mexico borders. Foreign nationals entering the U.S. for nonessential travel via land and ferry ports must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccination requirements for travelers categorized as “essential” only have been postponed until January 2022. See additional info at U.S. To Reopen Borders with Mexico and Canada to Vaccinated International Travelers.
Very limited exceptions to the vaccination requirement will be made, such as for children not yet eligible for vaccination and COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants. Humanitarian exceptions may also be made for those foreign nationals who have a compelling and urgent reason to travel but lack timely access to a vaccination. Foreign nationals who are exempted from vaccine requirement may be required to get vaccinated upon arrival in the United States.
How Easing the Restrictions Will Impact Travelers
The original September 20, 2021 rescission announcement, which came on the eve of President Biden’s address to the United Nations General Assembly, was welcome news to those who have been subject to the travel restrictions. While U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and certain other individuals are exempt from the current bans, these restrictions have created significant challenges for others who wish to enter the United States after being present in one of the impacted countries during any preceding 14-day period. Non-exempt individuals have had to either apply and qualify for a national interest exception (NIE) or break the chain of travel by spending at least 14 days in a non-impacted country before entering the United States.
New Vaccination and Testing Policies
Under the new policy, all adult foreign national air travelers will be required to show proof of vaccination with an approved vaccine in addition to a negative test taken within three days before boarding a U.S.-bound flight. American citizens and permanent residents who are not fully vaccinated will continue to be permitted to fly back to the United States. However, with the new policy, all unvaccinated air travelers must show proof of a negative test taken within one day of departure as well as proof of purchase of a viral test to be taken after arrival.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will also issue a Contact Tracing Order requiring airlines to collect contact information for all in-bound passengers and provide this information upon request so that the CDC may follow up with travelers who have been exposed to COVID-19.
Additionally, the current mask mandate for air travel has been extended through January 18, 2022.
More Details to Follow
More details are expected to be announced, such as acceptable vaccinations and types of proof, in the coming weeks.
If you have questions regarding the recent announcements involving the rescission of travel restrictions, contact a Barst attorney. For general inquiries or to schedule a consultation, please visit https://barstlaw.com/contact-us/.