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Volume 1 | Issue 3

COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements for Travelers to the United States

On October 25, 2021, President Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation rescinding the geographic COVID-19 travel bans and adopting COVID-19 vaccination requirements for all international air travelers to the United States. These new requirements are effective as of 12:01 a.m. Eastern time on November 8, 2021.


What happens with the geographic travel bans?

This latest Proclamation rescinds the geographic COVID-19 travel bans that restricted travel from China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the UK and Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and India. Those restrictions will no longer exist as of November 8, 2021.


Who is covered by this Proclamation?

The Proclamation suspends entry into the United States via air travel of noncitizen nonimmigrants who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with certain exceptions. Noncitizens and nonimmigrants will still be able to obtain a visa, if necessary, but must show proof of full vaccination before boarding a plane to the United States. Note that visa interview availability continues to be severely limited at U.S. consulates abroad.


What does proof of full vaccination look like?

Passengers must show documentation that demonstrates a match between the name and date of birth on the vaccination record; the vaccination record must have been issued by an official source of the country where it was given; and the vaccination must meet the CDC’s guidelines for full vaccination. The vaccine must have been approved or authorized by the FDA or included in the WHO list of emergency use vaccines. The documentation itself can consist of verifiable digital or paper records, a non-verifiable paper record issued by an authorized source, or a non-verifiable digital record, such as a photo of the paper record or downloaded record or vaccination certificate.


What are the exceptions to the vaccination requirement?

Those who are not required to show proof of full vaccination include: (i) children under the age of 18; (ii) those participating in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines; (iii) those who can provide a letter from a licensed physician that the vaccine is medically contraindicated for them; (iv) humanitarian and emergency exceptions as granted by the CDC; (v) those from countries with limited vaccine availability, as determined by the CDC; and (vi) members of the U.S. Armed Forces, diplomats, United Nations workers, sea crew members, and airline crew members. There are no exceptions to the Proclamation’s vaccine requirement for religious reasons or other moral convictions.


Are there additional requirements for those who receive an exemption from the vaccine?

These individuals will be subject to more rigorous testing requirements, including: (i) showing proof of a negative test taken within one day of travel to the United States; (ii) undergoing a COVID-19 viral test within 3-5 days after arrival in the United States; (iii) self-quarantining for a full seven days, regardless of the test results; and (iv) self-isolating if the test result is positive or they experience COVID-19 symptoms. Further, those that are unvaccinated may be required to be fully vaccinated within 60 days of arriving in the United States, with certain exceptions.


What about vaccinated individuals?

All vaccinated air travelers, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, will be required to produce a negative viral test result within three calendars days of travel to the United States.


What about the National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) issued for travelers from previously restricted countries?

Once the Proclamation takes effect on November 8, 2021, all travelers will need to meet the new travel requirements regardless of any previous National Interest Exception they obtained. As such, it appears that previously issued NIEs will no longer be valid for purposes of the vaccination requirements.