Prior COVID-19 Travel Bans Repealed as of November 8, 2021
On October 25, 2021, President Biden announced the suspension of the COVID-19 travel bans from Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Previously, a National Interest Exception waiver was required. With this new Proclamation, the White House announced a global vaccination requirement for all adult foreign national air travelers and authorized the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to provide specific regulations. The White House announcement can be found here.
Key Provisions of the New Air Travel Restrictions
National Interest Exception (NIE) Waiver No Longer Valid for Travel: Any traveler that had a valid NIE waiver from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate can no longer use it to enter the U.S. as of November 8, 2021. They were voided by the White House repeal of the country specific travel bans. Instead the new vaccinations rules will apply to all air travelers to the U.S. from any country around the world.
General Rule – Must Be Fully Vaccinated: Starting November 8, most foreign national air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding a flight to the U.S. There will only be limited exceptions. See the U.S. State Department FAQ’s here.
Acceptable Vaccines: Must have FDA or World Health Organization approval. Combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccinations are OK. 14 days must have passed since the final dose of vaccine is received before boarding a flight to the U.S.
Proof of Vaccination: The traveler must show the airline a paper or digital record issued by an official source at the time of boarding. The record should include the traveler’s name and date of birth, as well as the vaccine product and date(s) of administration for all doses the traveler received.
- Children Under Age 18: These travelers will be exempt from the vaccination requirement. However, children between the ages of 2 and 17 are required to take a pre-departure test. If a child is not fully vaccinated and traveling with a fully vaccinated adult, they can show proof of a negative viral test from a sample taken within three days before departure (consistent with the timeline for fully vaccinated adults). If an unvaccinated child is traveling alone or with an unvaccinated adult, they will have to show proof of a negative viral test from a sample taken within one day of departure.
Exception for Low Vaccination Countries and Foreign National Coming on a Work Visa: The CDC has listed 50 countries (primarily in Africa and the Middle East) that have 10% vaccination rates or lower. For these countries, citizens with a work visa may enter the U.S. without the vaccinations, but must provide one-day negative test results prior to boarding, as well as agree to quarantine for 7 days after arrival, take another test 3 to 5 days after arrival, and must then be vaccinated within 60 days of arriving in the U.S. if they plan to stay in the country for 60 days or more Tourists on a B-1 or B-2 visa will not be allowed in the U.S. from these countries without a vaccination. See the full CDC guidance here.
Other Limited Exceptions to the Vaccination Requirement: Diplomats, children under age 18, those with medical contraindications to COVID-19 vaccines, humanitarian or emergency exceptions, air and sea crew members, and those whose admission would be in the national interest.
Religious/Moral Exception Not Available: There are no exceptions under the Presidential Proclamation and CDC’s Order for religious reasons or other moral convictions.
- Day Count for Required Tests: A 3-day test prior to departure is actually 4 days – i.e., a flight departing on Thursday will require a negative test result taken on or after Monday. For a 1-day test prior to departure, that will require that the test be taken the day before the flight or the day of the flight.
- Self-Test: A self-test can be used if it meets the requirements of the order including real-time proctoring by a telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test and that generates a test result that can be reviewed by the airline before boarding.
- S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents: If not vaccinated, U.S. citizens and permanent residents can still board an aircraft and be admitted to the U.S. but must present the airline with a negative test result within 24 hours prior to boarding.
- Arrive Early to the Airport Due to the Lengthy COVID-19 Screening Process: Airlines will be charged with properly reviewing all vaccination paperwork for each traveler prior to boarding. This is expected to create longer lines and delays in the pre-boarding process.
CBP Land Border Travel Restrictions: Beginning November 8, travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 may enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings. The travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination.
Beginning in early January 2022, DHS will require that all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry POEs – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. This approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers, students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated. See: Secretary Mayorkas to Allow Fully Vaccinated Travelers from Canada and Mexico to Enter U.S. at Land Borders and Ferry Crossings
- General Guidance Regarding Monitoring Travel Document Expiration Dates: One must be diligent in monitoring all expiration dates including:
- Passport expiration – ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended stay, otherwise U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may deny entry or severely limit the period of stay.
- ESTA visa waiver registration expiration or visa expiration registration.
- If entering on a work visa, the petition expiration date (PED).
- I-94 expiration of authorized stay issued by CBP at the port of entry. To obtain an I-94, visit the official website here.
- Sheppard Mullin’s Immigration Practice provides a robust array of services for employers including general counsel, human resource managers, executives, scientists, engineers, software developers, investors, and entrepreneurs. Contact your Sheppard Mullin attorney or the authors for additional assistance.