COVID Travel Rules 2.0: What's Changing
The rules for international travelers entering the U.S. will change on November 8, 2021. The current bans blocking entry to the U.S. by people who have been present in specific COVID hotspot countries will go away. These regional bans will be replaced by vaccination and testing requirements that will apply globally, with specific rules for different types of travelers.
Under the new policy, all travelers ages 2 and older – including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) – must provide the airline proof of a negative COVID test before boarding a U.S.-bound flight. For fully vaccinated individuals, the test must be taken within 3 days of departure. For unvaccinated individuals, the test must be taken within one day of departure. People who have been diagnosed with COVID within the last 90 days can present their previous positive test result and a letter from a healthcare provider confirming that they have recovered and been cleared to travel instead of getting a new test. Both PCR and rapid antigen tests are permitted, but at-home tests can only be used if they are monitored by a telehealth provider and the provider issues the test result. Over-the-counter test kits that you perform and read yourself won’t count. Travelers will also be required to sign an attestation stating that the information they are providing regarding their vaccination status and test result is true. Criminal penalties can apply for supplying false information.
In addition to providing a negative test result, non-immigrant travelers coming to the U.S. via a temporary visa or using the Visa Waiver Program must also show proof of vaccination with one of the approved vaccines (Janssen/J&J, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm, or Sinovac). Limited exemptions are available to the vaccination requirement, including:
Children under age 18.
People with documented medical contraindications to receiving a COVID vaccine. A letter from a licensed physician with details is required.
Participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials.
People with valid visas (other than B1/B2 tourist visas) who are citizens of a country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability. The CDC maintains a list of these countries, most of which are in Africa and the Middle East.
Members of the U.S. military and their family members.
People with a humanitarian or emergency travel letter from a U.S. government source.
People whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Transportation, or Secretary of Homeland Security. A travel letter from a U.S. government source is required.
Note that there is no exemption for religious or moral objections.
All non-immigrant travelers must complete a second attestation regarding their vaccination status and any exemptions that apply. Most unvaccinated non-immigrant travelers who will be in the U.S. for more than 60 days must also agree to get vaccinated within 60 days of entry to the U.S. This requirement does not apply to children under 18 or people with medical contraindications, but people who fall under most of the other exemption categories will be expected to get vaccinated after arrival. Again, criminal penalties can apply for supplying false information on the attestation.
The airlines will be responsible for examining travelers’ proof of vaccination, exemption documentation, and test results. There are bound to be hiccups as the new rules take effect, but getting rid of the regional bans in favor of a more uniform system is a welcome change for many international travelers. Contact Best Law Offices today if you have questions about how the travel policy changes could impact you!