Biden Administration Plans To Rescind COVID-19 Travel Bans And Instead Required Proof Of Vaccination From International Travelers Beginning In November.

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The White House announced that it is plans to ease travel restrictions on all international travelers coming into the United States beginning in early November 2021. The White House will rescind the current geographic COVID-19 related travel bans implemented for individuals from China, Iran, the Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India and will instead move forward with solutions to deter the spread of COVID-19 based on individuals, rather than restrictions placed on entire countries or regions.

In place of these bans, all international travelers will be required to prove that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a flight to the United States. The CDC will provide information regarding which vaccines will be accepted.

Limited exceptions such as for children; COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants; and humanitarian exceptions for people traveling for an important reason and who lack access to vaccination in a timely manner will be available. Individuals who are exempted from the vaccine requirement may be required to be vaccinated upon arrival.

The administration will also be making additional recommendations to stop the spread of COVID-19, including 1) continuing the mask mandate through January 18, 2022; 2) expanding pre-departure and post-arrival testing requirements; and 3) implanting a contact tracing order for airlines.

The administration has indicated that it needs until early November to establish processes and procedures to fully implement this decision.

White House International Travel Announcement

President Biden has announced that beginning in early November, the United States will be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States, by requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully vaccinated. This policy means that we will no longer be implementing the current 212(f) travel policies for individual countries as of early November, and will be moving to a consistent, stringent requirement for all international air travelers coming to the United States. Specifically:

  • Starting in early November, foreign nationals traveling to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to show proof of vaccination prior to boarding an airplane;
  • The current requirement for everyone to show proof of a negative test taken within 3 days of boarding a flight will remain in place for all fully vaccinated travelers.
  • CDC will continue to strongly recommend against air travel by Americans who are not fully vaccinated; however, all unvaccinated travelers who return to the United States and are not fully vaccinated will be required to, prior to boarding an airplane:
    • Provide proof of a negative test result taken within one day of their departure;
    • Provide proof that they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival.
  • CDC will also issue a Contact Tracing Order that will require airlines to collect comprehensive contact information for every passenger coming to the United States and to provide that information promptly to CDC upon request, to follow up with travelers who have been exposed to COVID-19 variants or other pathogens.
  • These requirements will apply globally.

This policy means that we will no longer be implementing the current 212(f) travel policies for individual countries as of early November, and will be moving to a consistent, stringent requirement for all international air travelers coming to the United States.

Q&A with Biden Administration Officials

Q: Why have you kept the previous policies in place for so long? Why make this change now? What changed between now and January when you took over this system and kept it in place for 8 months?

  • Maintaining the prior system while vaccinations ramped up around the world was the most effective way to keep Americans safe.
  • Now, nearly 6 billion shots have been given globally and dozens of countries have strong vaccination rates.
  • This new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States, by requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully vaccinated.

Q: Why are you announcing it now if it won’t be active until November? What are next steps?

  • Announcing the changes now gives the appropriate amount of time for strong implementation.
  • Airlines and other private businesses need some lead time to make business decisions about travel later in the year and to prepare for putting the changes in place.
  • CDC will be replacing the current Global Testing Order with an updated approach that requires vaccination for foreign nationals, tightens the pre-departure testing requirements, and adds a post-arrival testing requirement for unvaccinated travelers. They will also be issuing a new Contact Tracing Order.
  • DHS, FAA, and State will also be working to develop the directives and processes for implementing these changes via the boarding process with airlines and through consular affairs offices.
  • So, we are going to take the time to get this right.

Q: Won’t this change increase travel to the United States? Doesn’t that add to risk at a time when hospitals are overflowing in many parts of the country?

  • This enhances the protections for the American people by requiring ALL foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated before boarding a plane to come to the United States, with very limited exceptions.
  • It will also require American citizens and residents who are not vaccinated to test within a day of boarding a plane rather than three days, which will provide stronger protections against infected people boarding planes.

Q: Isn’t this just an admission that the travel restrictions do not make sense?

  • Maintaining the prior system while vaccinations ramped up around the world was the most effective way to keep Americans safe.
  • Now, nearly 6 billion shots have been given globally and dozens of countries have strong vaccination rates.
  • This new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States, by requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully vaccinated.

Q: What proof of vaccination status will you accept?

  • We will be requiring proof of vaccination status to be presented before boarding.
  • The type of proof required will be worked out as the detailed implementation plan is developed in the coming weeks.

Q: What vaccines will you accept?

  • We will look to CDC to guide which vaccines will be accepted, as part of their standard role in determining who is considered fully vaccinated for the purposes of recommended or required international travel protocols.

Q: Are you planning to end Title 19 restrictions on non-essential travel at the land border?

  • Title 19 is being extended for another month through October 21, and we do not have further updates to that policy at this time.

Q: What are you doing to step up mitigation at the land border, if anything? Or instead are you going to have an inconsistency where unvaccinated people can cross the land border but not get on a plane?

  • Today, the administration is announcing a move to a safer and more harmonized global approach to international inbound air travel, and our focus will be on implementing those changes.
  • We do not have any updates to the land border policies at this time.

Q: Who will be excepted from the full vaccination requirement for foreign nationals?

  • The exceptions will be very narrow, such as for children; COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants; and, humanitarian exceptions for people traveling for an important reason and who lack access to vaccination in a timely manner. But let me stress that these will be very limited exceptions.
  • And we will be requiring that people who receive these very limited exceptions agree to get vaccinated upon arrival.

Q: Won’t requiring vaccination be highly inequitable, especially for countries with low vaccine access?

  • We believe that the vast majority of people who can travel internationally to the U.S. will be able to access a vaccine.
  • For those who have a compelling and urgent reason to come to the United States and are not able to access a vaccine in a timely manner prior to departure, we will have in place very limited exceptions for which they can apply.
  • And we will be requiring that people who receive these very limited exceptions agree to get vaccinated upon arrival.

Q: What additional mitigation steps are you taking beyond the vaccination requirement?

  • We have extended the masking order through January 18, 2022.
  • CDC will also be stepping up pre-departure and post-arrival testing requirements.
  • CDC will also be putting in place a contact tracing order.

Q: Why not take down 212(f) now?

  • We are taking down 212(f) for the countries to which it applies today concurrent with the early November start of the new system.

Q: When will the policies be finalized and made public?

  • We anticipate these policies will be effective by early November.

*Thank you to the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association for this content.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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