International Air Travel Resumes, Regional COVID-Related Travel Bans Rescinded, Replaced with COVID Vaccination Requirement
On October 25, 2021, President Biden issued a presidential proclamation rescinding all regional COVID-19 travel restrictions effective from 12.01am EST on Monday, November 8, 2021, replacing these restrictions with a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for foreign nationals seeking non-immigrant entry to the United States via air travel.
Despite the previous proclamations targeting specific regions for their imposed restrictions, the most recent proclamation applies to all nonimmigrants travelling to the United States through the air, including Canada and Mexico. Kindly note that this proclamation does not apply to land border travel – a separate announcement to clarify land border travel is forthcoming – nor does it apply to Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States, U.S. citizens, and U.S. nationals.
Further, though these requirements do not prohibit U.S. consular nonimmigrant visa processing, please do expect delays to nonimmigrant visa appointments as demand for appointments increases. For more information on the vaccination requirement, please visit the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website.
Q1: What do the new requirements impose?
Under the new proclamation, as of 12.01am EST on Monday November 8, 2021, foreign nationals who attempt to enter the United States through air travel are required to provide evidence of approved full COVID-19 vaccinations prior to flight boarding. This new requirement is in addition to the existing requirement that all international travellers to the U.S. must provide a negative COVID-19 test which was taken within three days of travel. If you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and you are travelling to the United States from any foreign country, you will not be able to board your flight unless you meet the criteria for an exception under the proclamation.
Q2: Which COVID-19 vaccines are accepted for travel to the United States?
The accepted list of COVID-19 vaccines are those approved by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the Vaccines Listed for Emergency Use by the World Health Organization. As of October 26, 2021, this list is as follows:
- Janssen/J&J (Single Dose);
- Pfizer-BioNTech (Two Dose);
- Moderna (Two Dose);
- AstraZeneca (Two Dose);
- Covishield (Two Dose);
- BIP/Sinopharm (Two Dose); and
- Sinovac (Two Dose).
PLEASE NOTE that the above list is subject to change. Prior to your travel we recommend that you refer to the CDC website for the most current list of accepted COVID-19 vaccinations, found here.
You must have had your last vaccine jab 14 days before your travel, and if you have had a double dose vaccine, each dose must be administered at least 17 days apart.
Q3: What is an acceptable proof of COVID-19 vaccination?
ALL forms of proof of COVID-19 vaccination must have 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); and
- Vaccine manufacturer and date(s) of vaccination.
|Verifiable records (digital or paper)||Vaccination certificate with QR code1, digital pass via Smartphone application with QR code1 (e.g., United Kingdom National Health Service COVID Pass, European Union Digital COVID Certificate)|
|Non-verifiable paper records||Printout of COVID-19 vaccination record or a COVID-19 vaccination certificate issued at national or subnational level or by an authorized vaccine provider (e.g., the CDC vaccination card)|
|Non-verifiable digital records||Digital photos of vaccination card or record, downloaded vaccine record or vaccination certificate from official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider), or a mobile phone application without QR code|
PLEASE NOTE that the above list is subject to change. Prior to your travel we recommend that you refer to the CDC website for the most current list of accepted proof COVID-19 vaccination, found here.
Q4: I have been vaccinated but my vaccine is not on the approved list of vaccinations. Can I enter the United States?
Unless you have an emergency health or humanitarian reason, or you are able to provide sufficient evidence that you fit into an exception category, you will be unable to travel to the United States.
Q5: What if I have not been vaccinated and need to travel to the United States?
If you have not been vaccinated you must provide sufficient evidence that you fit into an exception category. You must also provide a COVID-19 test which was taken no more than one day prior to the departure of your flight.
Q6: Do I still need a National Interest Exception (NIE) Waiver to enter the United States?
No, the NIE waiver was required only under the prior proclamations which have now been rescinded. No NIE application will be required to enter the United States.
Q7: Do I need to provide a proof of negative COVID-19 test even if I have been vaccinated?
Yes, all travellers to the United States must still provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or evidence of recovering from COVID-19 recently, despite vaccination status.
Q8: I am a nonimmigrant currently in the United States. Does this proclamation apply to me?
The proclamation only applies to those who are travelling to the United States after 12.01am EST on November 8, 2021. As such if you are already in the United States at this time and remain beyond this date, you will not be required to show evidence of vaccination to remain within the country. However, if you depart the United States and re-enter after November 8, 2021, you will be required to abide by the proclamation’s requirements.
Q9: What are the criteria for an exception to the recent proclamation?
Categories of noncitizen nonimmigrants that meet the criteria for an exception under the Proclamation and CDC’s Order include:
- Persons on diplomatic or official foreign government travel;
- 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;
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age);
- Sea crew members traveling with to a C-1 and D nonimmigrant visa; and
- 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).
If you satisfy any one of these criteria, you may be required to prove the following:
- You will be tested with a COVID-19 viral test 3–5 days after arrival in the United States, unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days;
- You will self-quarantine for a full 7 days, even if the test result to the post-arrival viral test is negative, unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days; and
- You will self-isolate if the result of the post-arrival test is positive or if you develop COVID-19 symptoms.
If you satisfy the above exception criteria and you intend to stay in the United States for longer than 60 days, you may be required to prove the following:
- You agree to be vaccinated against COVID-19; and
- You have arranged to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States, or as soon thereafter as is medically appropriate, unless (for children) you are too young to be vaccinated.
Q10: Does my proof of vaccination need to be in English?
Airlines and other aircraft operators must be able to confirm proof of vaccination and review other required information and should determine when translation is necessary for these purposes. If your documents are in a language other than English, you should check with your airline or aircraft operator before travel
Q11: I have an urgent humanitarian or emergency reason to travel to the United States. How do I apply for an exception?
This is an application with which we are able to assist. You must contact your local U.S. Embassy in order to apply for a humanitarian or emergency exception with all accompanying documentation you think is necessary to your application. The Embassy will then forward your application to the CDC for their review.
Q12: Will there be any restrictions on applying for a visa on or after November 8, 2021?
The recent proclamation does not affect the issuance of nonimmigrant visas, regardless of an applicant’s vaccination history. Though the applicant may successfully apply for a visa, they may still be unable to board a flight to the United States if they are found not to be compliant with the vaccination proclamation.
Furthermore delays in visa processing and interview appointment available can be expected as the demand for nonimmigrant visas rises.
If you are planning to travel to the US and are unsure whether you need a visa or for guidance on the latest in US visa processing, speak to our US immigration specialists.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.