New COVID vaccination requirements for travel to the US

BY Jason Gerrol

Effective November 8, 2021, the Biden administration will allow fully vaccinated foreign travelers to enter the US via air travel and land borders, according to the White House assistant press secretary. The new travel rules will replace the various country-specific travel restrictions issued pursuant to Presidential Proclamation (PP) 9984 (China), PP 9992 (Iran), PP 10143 (Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa), and PP 10199 (India) with a requirement that all travelers to the US, regardless of geographic location, provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, and proof of a negative COVID-19 test (taken within three days of boarding a flight to the US), prior to travel to the US.

While the Biden administration has yet to issue full details of the new travel rules, it is understood that only vaccines that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted for travelers seeking entry to the US:

  1. WHO approved: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca/Covishield, Sinophram, and Sinovac
  2. FDA approved: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer-BioNTech

Limited exceptions will be available for children too young to receive the vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants, as well as humanitarian reasons for travelers who lack access to the vaccination (although such travelers may be required to obtain the vaccination after arrival). US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents are exempt from the vaccination requirement, but if not vaccinated, will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID test (from a test taken within one day of departure), and proof they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival in the US. All travelers will be subject to a Contact Tracing Order that will require airlines to collect contact information for every passenger and provide that information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) upon request.

For land and ferry border crossings from Canada and Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will allow non-essential travel to the US for fully vaccinated travelers effective November 8, 2021. DHS will continue to allow “essential travel” across the Canadian and Mexican borders for unvaccinated travelers. However, in early January 2022, DHS will require all travelers across the Canadian and Mexican borders to be fully vaccinated.

Importantly, foreign national travelers who previously received a National Interest Exception to the country-specific travel restrictions are not exempt from the requirement to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination effective November 8, 2021.

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Jason Gerrol

Of Counsel

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