In a Twitter announcement on October 15, the White House announced that the U.S. will introduce a new travel policy that will begin on November 8, permitting foreign nationals access to the United States provided they have been fully vaccinated with ‘very limited exceptions’ to its vaccination requirements. Further, the travel ban is lifted for both air and land entries.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has already updated the airlines with the list of all Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved and authorized vaccines, as well as those vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization that will be accepted for air travel to this country. FDA approved vaccines include those produced by Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, as well as those approved for emergency use including AstraZeneca, Serum Institute of India, Sinopharm (Beijing), and Sinovac. As well, international travelers will be required to evidence proof of vaccination in addition to negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight. Travelers entering the U.S. through land borders will not need to evidence proof that they have underdone gone a negative COVID-19 test.
Travel bans were first imposed by the Trump administration at the outset of the COVID-19 epidemic in March 2020. Travel bans have been imposed on China, Iran, South Africa, Brazil, The Schengen Countries (26 countries of the European Union) as well as the UK and Ireland. Separate travel restrictions have also affected non-essential travel from Canada and Mexico and specifically land entries from those countries. Easing of the travel ban for Canadians and Mexicans was announced earlier this week.
The White House has indicated in its preliminary twitter notification, that the lifting of the travel ban will take a phased approach – the first phase will be implemented on November 8 for non-essential travel, and the second phase in early January 2022.
The lifting of the travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 is certainly welcome news for business travelers who have been frustrated by the lack of ability to access the United States, with the exception of securing national interest exceptions in advance from U.S. consular posts or ports of entry.
The lifting of the travel ban further does not relieve the consular backlogs that the pandemic has wrought with regard to immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments. More formal notification regarding details regarding access to the United States will be forthcoming.