On October 25, 2021, President Biden signed a presidential proclamation aimed at resuming international travel to the U.S. next month. The proclamation—which is effective at 12:01am ET on Monday, November 8, 2021—revokes the country-specific COVID-19 travel bans implemented by Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9984, 9992, 10143, and 10199 for persons physically present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. In place of these geographic restrictions, the proclamation institutes a universal vaccination requirement by prohibiting the entry of unvaccinated nonimmigrants unless certain exceptions apply. This prohibition is explicitly for air travel and not visa issuance, so it will be implemented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and airlines who board passengers for travel to the United States.
The CDC’s Order Implementing President Proclamation on Advancing Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic and related Technical Instructions outline the new international air travel system that will be in effect beginning November 8, 2021.
- Noncitizens who are nonimmigrants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a vaccine approved for at least emergency use by the FDA or the World Health Organization (presently, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca/Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm, and Sinovac). Individuals are considered fully vaccinated on the 14th day after the second dose of a two-shot vaccine or a single-shot vaccine.
- Individuals are permitted to “mix-and-match” by receiving a combination of any of the acceptable vaccines at least 17 days apart.
- Proof of vaccination must be presented and inspected by the airline prior to boarding. Acceptable documentation must display the name and date of birth that matches the passenger’s passport or other documentation, must be issued by an official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized provider), and contain information demonstrating that the individual meets the CDC’s definition of Fully Vaccinated, including vaccine product, number of doses received, and the date(s) and location(s) of administration.
- QR codes that link to information generated from an official database are the preferred method of documentation, but airlines can also accept non-verifiable paper and digital records that appear genuine.
- Documentation is not required to be in English but must be comprehensible by the airline operator, who may require a translation.
- The vaccination requirement does not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, legal permanent residents, or foreign nationals traveling on an immigrant visa.
- Individuals who are fully vaccinated—including U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and immigrant visa holders, who are not subject to the latest Presidential Proclamation—must present a negative viral test result within three days of their travel to the U.S.
- Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must present a negative viral test result within one day of traveling.
- Travelers can also show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 within the past 90 days. This satisfies the testing requirement, but not the vaccination requirement.
- Children ages 2 to 17 are required to take a pre-departure test as well. If traveling with a fully vaccinated adult, unvaccinated children can test three days prior to departure. Unvaccinated children traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults must test within one day of departure. Children under age 2 are encouraged—but not required—to be tested.
Contact Tracing Requirement
- Airlines are required to collect contact information for all international inbound travelers to the U.S., including full name, phone number, email address, and physical address where travelers can be reached while staying in the U.S.
- Individuals traveling on diplomatic visas or for reasons related to official foreign government travel;
- Air crew and sea crew members, provided they are adhering to all industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19;
- Children under age 18;
- Individuals with sufficient evidence from a medical professional identifying a medical condition that causes the COVID-19 vaccine to be contraindicated;
- Individuals who are participating or have participated in a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial and who present such clinical trial documentation;
- Individuals who have received a humanitarian, emergency, or national interest exception to the requirement; and
- Citizens of countries with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability, as determined by the CDC and published here, who are not traveling on a B-1 or B-2 visa.
Unvaccinated travelers subject to the vaccine requirement but eligible for an exception must complete an attestation (or have one completed on their behalf) wherein they agree to arrange for post-arrival testing and self-quarantine for seven days (or self-isolation if the test result is positive or symptoms develop), as well as to become fully vaccinated within 60 days of arrival if they intend to stay in the U.S. for more than 60 days, unless otherwise exempted from this requirement.
The White House also confirmed that nonessential travel will be permitted for fully vaccinated foreign nationals from Canada and Mexico via land and ferry border crossings beginning on November 8, 2021. No formal modification of the existing land border restrictions has been published, but the administration stated that additional details will be available in the coming days. The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is expected to follow the same CDC guidelines for acceptable vaccines and vaccine documentation, as well as available exceptions.