The US has unveiled its new rules for travelers arriving from abroad, with lighter restrictions set to come into force on November 8th. Almost all travelers will need to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the FDA or WHO, with only limited exceptions. Airlines will also be responsible for enforcing requirements and collecting data for contact tracing.
The US updates its travel restrictions
Ahead of its reopening on November 8th, the US has unveiled its new rules for international travel. Travelers arriving in the country will need to provide proof of full vaccination status from an “official source” and present a negative test result taken within 72 hours of departure. Vaccinations must be received at least two weeks prior to travel.
The White House stated,
“It is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the COVID-19 pandemic and to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States.”
Only vaccines approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO) will be permitted. This includes Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac jabs.
The list does not include the Sputnik vaccine, which has been distributed extensively across South America in particular. However, travelers who have mixed vaccines for their first and second jabs will be allowed.
With regards to testing requirements, CDC guidelines state that “passengers must be tested with a viral test that could be either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT).”
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US has imposed a travel ban limiting visitors from foreign countries. This has included severe restrictions on visitors from China, India, Brazil and European nations. From November 8th, these restrictions will be lifted as the US adopts an individual approach to restrictions rather than a country-by-country approach.
Exemptions for some unvaccinated travelers
Full vaccination status is mandatory for almost all visitors arriving in the US, although some exceptions will be allowed. For example, US citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who haven’t been vaccinated will still be permitted entry, provided they can offer a negative test result taken within 24 hours of departure.
Notably, children under the age of 18 will be exempt from vaccination requirements. However, they will need to present a negative test result taken within three days of traveling.
Additionally, non-tourist visitors from countries with a low nationwide vaccination rate will be exempt from mandatory vaccination status. There are around 50 countries on this list, each considered to have low vaccination supplies.
The CDC has also clarified that there are no religious exemptions to the new requirements. Other rare exemptions include traveling for emergency or humanitarian purposes and vaccine clinical trial participants.
New requirements for airlines
Airlines will also need to play their part under the new rules. Firstly, it is the responsibility of airlines to validate the vaccination status of each passenger. This includes confirming which vaccine product was used and the date of vaccination. Additionally, airlines must collect passenger information and store it for 30 days for contact tracing.
A senior administration official said,
“The new system also includes enhanced testing requirements, strengthened contact tracing, as well as masking. These are strict safety protocols that follow the science and public health to enhance the safety of Americans here at home, and the safety of international air travel.”
Failure to enforce the new rules could lead to hefty fines of up to $35,000 per violation.
What do you think about the new US travel requirements? Will you be visiting the US soon? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.