Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP

The White House has announced that, effective early November, regional COVID-19 travel restrictions will be rescinded. The current restrictions will be replaced with a new requirement that all foreign nationals be fully vaccinated before boarding airplanes inbound to the United States.

During the pandemic, regional COVID-19 restrictions have been a significant obstacle to travel to the United States. Under the restrictions, which were issued by Presidential Proclamation, non-citizens who have been in the designated countries within the 14 days before travel are barred from boarding U.S.-bound flights. (There are limited exceptions, including exceptions for lawful permanent residents of the United States and for individuals who have national interest exceptions.) Thirty-three countries are subject to the restrictions, including the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

The details of the new policy to take effect in November have yet to be announced. Here is what we know now:

  • Foreign nationals: Proof of vaccination plus proof of negative COVID test to be required. All foreign national travelers, before boarding flights to the United States, will be required to present proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will decide which vaccines are “approved.” (For example, the CDC will determine whether the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not approved for use in the United States, will be approved for purposes of inbound U.S. travel.) Currently, proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of travel to the United States is also required. That requirement will remain in place after November, in addition to the requirement of proof of vaccination.

    Exceptions will be narrow but may include children, or humanitarian grounds for persons who are traveling for an important reason and who lack access to a vaccine. Individuals who are subject to these limited exceptions must agree to be vaccinated upon arrival in the United States. (Because we do not yet know whether children will be exempted, it remains to be seen whether there will be special provisions for children who are too young to be vaccinated.)
  • U.S. citizens and permanent residents: Proof of negative COVID test and proof of purchase of viral test to be taken upon entry. American citizens and permanent residents who are not vaccinated will be required to have proof of a negative COVID test taken within one day of boarding a flight to the United States rather than the three-day window that applies to vaccinated foreign nationals. That, the White House says, “will provide stronger protections against infected people boarding planes.” In addition, before boarding, they must “[p]rovide proof that they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival.”
  • Contact tracing: The CDC is also expected to issue a new Contact Tracing Order.

The new policy will apply to all international air travel to the United States. The current restrictions on non-essential travel across the land borders between the United States, Canada, and Mexico will remain in effect at least through October 21.

We will continue to provide updates as we get more specifics from the Administration.

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