White House Announcement on COVID-19: Replacing Regional Travel Bans with Vaccination Requirements

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The White House recently announced that travel restrictions for all international travelers entering the United States by air will change in early November 2021.  Since 2020, several Presidential Proclamations have instituted regional COVID-19 travel bans by restricting travel to the United States for international travelers physically present in China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India during the fourteen-day period prior to U.S. entry with limited exceptions. With holiday travel fast approaching, the White House will rescind the regional COVID-19 travel bans for these countries and instead implement a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all international air travelers.  The new vaccination requirement will supplement the existing COVID-19 testing requirements for international travelers which require a negative test within three days or documentation of COVID-19 recovery before entering the United States.  A specific date for the policy change has not been announced, and the White House is expected to issue an official policy in the coming days.

In early November 2021, all international travelers must provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination before boarding a flight to the United States and must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of U.S. entry or provide other acceptable documentation.  The new requirements apply to all international travelers entering the United States including U.S. citizens.  Some exceptions will apply to children, COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants and those without access to vaccinations in a timely manner.  However, those travelers may be required to undergo testing immediately before boarding a U.S. flight and may have to provide proof of additional testing upon arrival in the U.S.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide details on acceptable vaccines and implement specific contact tracing protocols for airlines.

For international visitors currently subject to the regional COVID-19 travel bans, they will no longer need to seek a National Interest Exception (“NIE”) before entering the United States.  With proof of vaccination and compliance with testing requirements, they will be able to enter the United States.  For international travelers needing visas, many U.S. Embassies and Consulates remain backlogged with delays in processing, and this could worsen as more travelers apply for visas to travel to the United States.  In some cases, expedited appointments are granted for urgent business travel.

As we wait for announcement of the official policy, international travelers subject to the regional COVID-19 travel bans should continue to obtain NIEs for travel to the United States, unless exempt.  Additionally, all international travelers should stay abreast of the latest travel requirements including vaccination and testing protocols as the new policy is implemented.

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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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