As of 12:01 a.m. ET on November 8, 2021, the United States’ country-specific 14-day COVID-19 travel restrictions that have been so troublesome and disruptive for individuals and businesses will be eliminated. Instead, protecting the country from COVID-19 will focus on vaccination status.
President Joe Biden’s “A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic” provides that, on November 8, 2021, the entry by air of nonimmigrants (not U.S. citizens, immigrants, or green card holders) who are not fully vaccinated will be suspended, with certain exceptions and requirements. The Proclamation will not apply to passengers already on airplanes at 12:01 a.m. ET on November 8 and clearly states that the new restrictions will not affect the issuance of visas. One exception is for individuals whose entry is in the “national interest” – National Interest Exceptions (NIEs), it seems, will still be on the list of those who are not fully vaccinated (although they must get vaccinated within 60 days of entry into the country, unless they qualify for an exemption).
The list of nonimmigrants excepted from the fully vaccinated requirement includes:
- Crew members of airlines (or sea crew members) whose operators adhere to all CDC guidelines;
- Individuals in certain diplomatic-type visa status;
- Individuals whose age makes vaccination inappropriate;
- Individuals involved in certain clinical trials;
- Individuals for whom vaccination is medically contraindicated;
- Individuals who have received emergency or humanitarian exceptions from the CDC;
- Individuals (except for those seeking to enter in B status) seeking to enter from countries where COVID-19 vaccination is limited — including countries with less than 10% of their total population fully vaccinated or as otherwise determined by the CDC;
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, their spouses, and children; and
- Any noncitizen or group of noncitizens whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretaries of State, Transportation, Homeland Security, or their designees.
Where an individual qualifies for entry based on at least one exemption, they must still:
- Provide proof of a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test;
- Wear a face mask throughout their travel;
- Arrange for post-arrival COVID-19 testing prior to arrival;
- Provide proof of arrangements for self-quarantine or self-isolation upon arrival; and
- Agree to become vaccinated within 60 days of arrival if medically appropriate, unless the stay is determined to be sufficiently brief, the individual is participating in certain clinical trials, the individual has already received a COVID-19 vaccine that is authorized in their country, or the CDC determines vaccination is not warranted.
The Proclamation directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Director of the CDC, to implement the Proclamation and define all the requirements, including, but not limited to, what constitutes “fully vaccinated,” how individuals must prove compliance with all applicable CDC recommendations, and what countries will be on the list of places where vaccination is limited.