The Biden Administration announced today that it will lift COVID-related regional travel restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers effective November 8, 2021.
International Air Travel
As previously reported, the restrictions currently in place for travelers from China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and India, will be replaced with a global requirement that all foreign national travelers provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 and proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days of boarding a flight to the U.S.
American citizens and U.S. permanent residents who are not vaccinated will be required to have a COVID-19 test taken within 1 day of boarding a flight to the U.S.
Canada and Mexico – Ferry and Land Border Crossings
Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also announced that it will lift restrictions on non-essential travel at ferry and land border crossings between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico in early November 2021. The restrictions at ferry and land border crossings will be lifted in two phases:
- In November, DHS will allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter the U.S. at ferry and land border crossings for non-essential reasons. Unvaccinated individuals may enter for essential reasons only.
- Starting in January 2022, DHS will require all foreign travelers – essential or not – to be fully vaccinated, with very limited exceptions.
Vaccinated travelers entering at ferry and land crossings are not required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Authorized Vaccines and Other Requirements
For purpose of entry, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), acceptable vaccinations will include FDA approved vaccines or authorized and World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing vaccines.
Additional details regarding the new global requirements are expected in the coming weeks, including information on testing requirements, mandatory contact tracing orders, and limited exemptions for those not eligible for vaccines (e.g., children) and individuals lacking access to a vaccine.
Looking Ahead: The Good News and the Not-So-Good
The lifting of travel restrictions is welcome news and, upon implementation, will immediately benefit vaccinated foreign national travelers who do not require a visa to enter the U.S. or those who are already in possession of a valid visa for entry.
Vaccinated foreign national travelers who do require a visa to enter the U.S., though eligible to travel with the lifting of restrictions, are likely to face significant delays in securing a visa, due to the lack of available visa appointments at the U.S. consulates abroad. Many U.S. consulates are significantly backlogged in processing visa applications, offering appointments well into 2022, and some showing no appointment availability at all. The existing backlogs are expected to be compounded by a surge in demand with the lifting of the travel restrictions, holiday travel, and consular closures and resourcing issues. Foreign nationals requiring a valid visa for entry into the U.S. are strongly encouraged to review visa appointment wait times before making any travel plans.
Gibney continues to monitor this matter closely and will provide updates as additional guidance is released.