The White House Ends Country-Specific Travel Ban. New Vaccination Requirement for Entry to the USA Starting on November 8, 2021.

The White House Ends Country-Specific Travel Ban. New Vaccination Requirement for Entry to the USA Starting on November 8, 2021.

The White House finally formally announced on 25 October that the COVID-19 country-specific bans on entry to the United States will be replaced with a vaccination requirement for all non-citizen non-immigrants arriving in the US by air. This change will take effect on 8 November 2021 at 12:01 Eastern time.

What does this mean?
Beginning 8 November, as long as you have been vaccinated against COVID-19, you may travel to the United States even if you have been present in any of the previously banned countries* within 14 days of your arrival. National Interest Exceptions (NIE’s) are no longer required to travel to the United States. If you are eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program and have a valid ESTA, or, if you have a valid un-expired visa you may now travel directly to the United States without requesting pre-approval as long as you meet the vaccination requirements outlined below. As has always been the case, entry into the US will solely be in the discretion of US Customs and Border Protection.

*United Kingdom, Ireland, Schengen Area, Brazil, China, India, Iran, and South Africa.

What if I have already been granted an NIE before 8 November?
The new vaccination rules apply  regardless of whether you were previously granted an NIE.

What are the new vaccination requirements?
All non-citizen non-immigrants traveling to the United States from 8 November must demonstrate that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with one of the following authorized or approved vaccines:

  • Janssen / Johnson&Johnson
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca
  • Covishield
  • BIBP/Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

A person is considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks (14 days) after receiving an accepted single-dose vaccine or the second dose of a 2 dose series vaccine. The 14 days begins to accrue the day after the vaccine series is completed. (e.g., Your second dose was administered on 1 October, so you are considered fully vaccinated on 15 October.)

If a non-citizen non-immigrant is not vaccinated against COVID-19 they must demonstrate that they have arranged to become fully vaccinated within 60 days of arrival in the United States unless:

  • Their stay in the United States will be brief;
  • It would not be medically appropriate to receive a COVID-19 vaccination;
  • They have participated in a COVID-19 clinical trial; or
  • The Director of the CDC determines that vaccination is not warranted.

All travelers must also agree to comply with applicable public health precautions established by the Director of the CDC which may include pre-departure testing, post-arrival testing, mask-wearing, and self-quarantine.

More details regarding the accepted vaccines and entry requirements can be found on the CDC website.

What proof of vaccination is acceptable?
Paper or digital evidence of vaccination must be presented to the airline prior to boarding a flight. Your evidence must contain:

  • Personal identifiers (at a minimum, full name and date of birth) that match the personal identifiers on the passenger’s passport or other travel documents;
  • Name of official source issuing the record (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider);
  • Vaccine manufacturer and date(s) of vaccination

More details regarding acceptable proof of vaccination can be found on the CDC website.

Who does this apply to?
The new requirements do not apply to US citizens, US nationals, US permanent residents (LPRs), or those traveling to the United States with a valid immigrant visa. However, new immigrant visa applicants are now required to furnish proof of COVID-19 vaccination during their immigrant visa medical exam. The new requirements also do not apply to the following non-citizen non-immigrants:

  • Airline and aircraft crew who comply with standard industry COVID-19 protocols;
  • Sea crew traveling pursuant to a C-1 and D nonimmigrant visa who comply with standard industry COVID-19 protocols;
  • A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 visa holders;
  • Those whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement or who is traveling pursuant to a legal obligation;
  • Children under 18 years of age;
  • Those for whom vaccination is deemed medically inappropriate;
  • Those who have participated, or are participating, in certain clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination;
  • Citizens of a foreign country where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited, and who seeks to enter the US pursuant to a non-immigrant visa, except for a B-1 or B-2 visa;
  • Members of the United States Armed Forces and spouses or children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;
  • Those who have been granted a humanitarian or emergency exception;
  • Those whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.

Do I still need to provide a negative test for COVID-19 prior to boarding a flight to the United States?
Yes, at this time all those traveling to the United States are still required to furnish either a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery before being permitted to board a flight to the United States. Fully vaccinated travelers must submit to testing within 3 days of departure, while un-vaccinated travelers must submit to testing no more than 1 day prior to departure. These requirements apply to all travelers, not just non-citizens and/or non-immigrants. More information can be found on the CDC website.

Will I need to self-isolate or get tested upon arrival in the United States?
If you are a non-citizen non-immigrant that is un-vaccinated against COVID-19 and able to travel to the United States via an exception, you are required to get a viral test 3-5 days after arrival, unless you have documentation of recovery within the last 90 days. You are also required to self-isolate for 7 days, even if you test negative beforehand, unless you have documentation of recovery within the last 90 days.

The CDC recommends, but does not mandate, that all vaccinated travelers get tested within 3-5 days of arrival as well as monitors symptoms and follows state and local recommendations or requirements.

CDC recommendations and requirements change frequently so the most up to date information can be found on the CDC website.

What if I need to apply for a visa before going to the United States?
The end of the travel ban does not mean that the US consular posts will be fully open. The Department of State has indicated that it will operate a phased resumption of consular services, yet has not provided any specific time frames for when appointments in particular visa categories may become available.

Following the 25 October White House announcement, the Department of State indicated that beginning 8 November they can resume processing visa applications for those in previously banned countries. However, there is a significant backlog of applicants so routine (ie non-emergency) appointments will likely not be available right away.

Information on this blog is for informational purposes and is not legal advice. If you require US visa and nationality legal advice or have an urgent need to apply for a visa and would like to speak to us about requesting an expedited appointment please use our contact page or schedule a call to speak with one of our lawyers.