White House Lifts COVID-19 Travel Bans for Fully Vaccinated Travelers

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Our Labor & Employment Group breaks down the exemptions from the updated restrictions for international travelers requiring full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before entering the United States.

  • The announcement is still a modified travel ban
  • Exemptions include minors and those from countries with limited vaccine availability
  • Fully vaccinated travelers from regions previously subject to travel bans may now enter

On October 25, 2021, the White House revoked the prior COVID-19 travel restrictions and announced that as of November 8, 2021, international travelers traveling to the U.S. by air will be permitted to enter the U.S. if they:

  • Are fully vaccinated.
  • Can present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of their entry into the United States.
  • Agree to comply with public health precautions established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has published a list of vaccines that will be accepted as evidence of being fully vaccinated. (The list includes COVID-19 vaccines approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson / Janssen, as well as those listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as AstraZeneca/Oxford).

To be clear, the announcement is still a modified travel ban (“Global Suspension and Limitation on Entry of Certain Individuals Who Are Not Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19”). A failure to meet the requirements or an exemption will result in an international traveler being denied entry into the United States. The new modified ban will remain in effect until terminated by the President.

Exemptions

Limited exemptions exist for some travelers. Of note:

  • Minors who, based on their age and global vaccine availability for their age group, are not able to be vaccinated.
  • Noncitizens who are from countries where vaccine availability is limited (defined as less than 10% of the country’s total population being fully vaccinated, or as determined by the CDC) who seek to enter the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, except for a B-1 or B-2 visa.
  • Certain participants of clinical trials.
  • Persons granted an exemption by the CDC due to humanitarian or emergency reasons.
  • Persons who qualify for a National Interest Exemption as determined by the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, Secretary of Transportation, or their designees.

Additionally, international travelers who are not fully vaccinated but permitted to enter the United States based on an exemption must agree to become fully vaccinated within 60 days of arrival or in a timeframe determined by the CDC and must provide proof of arrangements for becoming fully vaccinated after arrival, with some exceptions (sufficiently brief stay, among others).

This means that travelers from regions previously subject to U.S. COVID travel bans (Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the Schengen Area) will now be able to enter the United States directly from those countries, so long as they meet the requirements for being fully vaccinated and can present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of their entry. This also means that minors, depending on their age, and travelers from countries with low vaccine availability (less than 10% full vaccination rate), may now be exempt from the travel bans.

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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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