The Biden administration has announced that it will lift current regional pandemic-related travel restrictions on foreign nationals in early November. The current restrictions will be replaced by a Covid-19 vaccination requirement for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States by air. The requirement that all travelers boarding U.S.-bound international flights must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test will remain in place.
Current Travel Restrictions
Both the Trump and Biden administrations have issued a series of Presidential Proclamations since early 2020 imposing and revising travel restrictions on certain foreign nationals due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We discussed these restrictions in previous posts on immigrant visa holders, nonimmigrant visa holders, and geographic entry bans. Under the most recent and currently applicable iteration of the travel restrictions, certain foreign nationals who have been physically present in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and India within the last 14 days are barred from entry into the United States. The restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, diplomats, and spouses or children of U.S. citizens.
Foreign nationals who are subject to these restrictions need a National Interest Exception (NIE) to travel directly to the United States. Obtaining approval for an NIE usually requires a formal request to a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas or a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) port of entry. NIE adjudication has been frustratingly inconsistent across consular offices and CBP posts, both on the merits and with respect to the timing of a decision, which can range from several days to several months.
New Vaccination Requirements
The current geographic entry bans are expected to be replaced in November by a vaccination requirement for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States by air. Foreign nationals will need to provide proof of full Covid-19 vaccination before boarding. Individuals will be considered fully vaccinated if they have received all required doses of vaccines approved for use in the United States or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization.
All international air travelers to the United States two years of age or older, including U.S. citizens, will still be required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days before boarding the flight.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has also announced that, effective October 1, 2021, immigrant visa and adjustment of status (“green card”) applicants must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Civil surgeons will verify vaccination status on the required Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (Form I-693) that applicants must obtain and submit in connection with these cases. Waivers of the vaccination requirement may be available for applicants of certain ages or medical conditions, or for applicants from areas where vaccinations are not routinely available. Individual waivers for religious beliefs or moral convictions will also be available, although it remains to be seen how such waiver requests will be adjudicated.
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