United States to Lift All Geographically Based COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

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In September, the White House announced that it would lift all of the geographic-based travel bans as of November 8, 2021. As we previously reported, the President imposed numerous geographically based travel bans due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, barring anyone who was physically present in China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India in the prior 14 days from traveling directly to the United States.

On October 25, 2021, President Biden released “A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-⁠19 Pandemic,” officially revoking country-specific suspensions and limitations on entry passed throughout 2020 and 2021, provided that the traveler is able to present proof that he or she is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Proclamation is applicable only to foreign nationals; U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not required to prove that they are vaccinated in order to return from travel abroad.

The Proclamation makes the director of the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) responsible for its implementation, “consistent with the CDC’s independent public health judgment,” including defining acceptable COVID-19 vaccines, defining whether an individual is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and specifying acceptable methods of proving that one is fully vaccinated, among other matters.

On the same day, the CDC issued technical instructions for implementation of the Proclamation. According to the guidance, proof of the following vaccines is acceptable for admission to the United States: Janssen/ J&J, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm, or Sinovac. An individual is not considered fully vaccinated until 14 days have passed since the traveler received one dose of an accepted single-dose series of the vaccine or since the person’s second dose in a two-dose series of an accepted vaccine. The CDC guidance also indicates that a “mix-and-match” combination of approved COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart is also acceptable.

The Proclamation and technical guidance indicate that the following classes of individuals are not subject to the vaccine requirement:

  • Crew members of an airline or other aircraft operators and/or sea crew members, subject to certain conditions.
  • Foreign government officials, government travelers, and/or members of NATO.
  • Any noncitizen for whom, given their age, requiring a vaccination would be inappropriate, as determined by the CDC.
    • According to the CDC technical instructions, children under the age of 18 are not required to show proof of vaccination in order to enter the United States
  • Persons with medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
    • According to the CDC technical instructions, anyone claiming this exception must carry a signed letter from a licensed physician documenting a medical contraindication. The letter must be signed and dated on official letterhead containing the name, address, and phone number of the licensed physician who signed the letter, must name the COVID-19 vaccine product, and the medical contraindication(s).
    • Objections to vaccination based on religious or moral convictions do not qualify for an exception under the Proclamation.
  • Certain participants in COVID-19 vaccine trials.
  • Any noncitizen granted an exception by the CDC Director for humanitarian or emergency reasons. This must be granted by U.S. Consulate abroad.
  • Applicants for asylum
  • Any noncitizen who is a citizen of a country where the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine is limited, as determined by the CDC (but this exception does not apply to anyone entering the U.S. as a B-1 or B-2 visitor.)
    • According to the CDC technical instructions, there are currently 50 countries that have less than 10 % vaccination coverage with any vaccine. This list will be updated every 90 days but currently includes the following countries:

Afghanistan

Liberia

Algeria Egypt

Libya

Angola Ethiopia

Madagascar

Armenia

Malawi

Benin

Mali

Burundi

Mozambique

Burkina Faso

Myanmar

Cameroon

Namibia

Central African Republic

Nicaragua

Chad

Niger

Congo

Nigeria

Cote d’Ivoire

Papua New Guinea

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Senegal

Djibouti

Sierra Leone

Egypt

Somalia

Ethiopia

South Sudan

Gabon

Sudan

Gambia

Syrian Arab Republic

Ghana

Togo

Guinea-Bissau

Uganda

Haiti

United Republic of Tanzania

Iraq

Vanuatu

Kenya

Yemen

Kiribati

Zambia

The Proclamation will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. EST on November 8, 2021.

In addition to carrying proof of vaccination, all air passengers ages 2 or older still must show a negative result of a COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States.

The CDC guidance on the vaccine requirement, and proof thereof, is subject to ongoing revision.

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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