As we previously posted last month, the United States is rescinding and replacing the geographic COVID-19 travel bans with new proof of vaccination requirements for all international travelers. These new requirements will pertain to those entering the U.S. via air, sea or across the land border with Canada or Mexico. As reported by numerous news outlets, the White House recently announced the new air travel requirements will take effect on November 8, 2021.

What we know

While official proclamations and regulations are still forthcoming, this is what we know:

  • The current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC requirement for all travelers to show proof of a negative COVID test taken within 3 days of travel will remain in place for all fully vaccinated travelers.
  • Foreign nationals traveling to the United States will be required to present proof of full COVID vaccination prior to boarding the in-bound flight. The CDC defines fully vaccinated as 2 weeks after the last required dose.
  • CDC announced that the acceptable vaccines will include those authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and those approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). The current comprehensive list includes:
    • Moderna
    • Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)
    • Pfizer-BioNTech
    • Oxford-AstraZeneca/Covishield
    • Sinopharm
    • Sinovac

The CDC has also confirmed that a mixture of the above vaccines will meet the definition of “fully vaccinated” per the new travel requirements provided the “second dose in a two dose heterologous series must have been received no earlier than 17 days (21 days with a 4 day grace period) after the first dose.”

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Mayorkas recently announced that the current travel restrictions prohibiting non-essential travel along the borders with Canada and Mexico will also be modified in two phases:
    • Phase One/November 2021: DHS will permit fully vaccinated foreign national travelers from Mexico or Canada to enter the United States at land and ferry Ports of Entry (POEs) for non-essential reasons. Currently, non-essential visitors from Canada or Mexico can only enter via air.
    • Phase Two/January 2022: DHS will require all inbound foreign national travelers, whether for essential or non-essential reasons, crossing by land or ferry – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – be fully vaccinated.

What we don’t know, yet

  • The specific exemptions to the vaccination requirements. DHS previously announced they will be extremely limited.
  • Eventually, will booster vaccinations be necessary to meet the “fully vaccinated” requirement?
  • The specific type of documentation Consulates and DHS, Customs and Border Protection will accept to establish a traveler is fully vaccinated. Will any document that appears to have been issued by a government or public health authority be satisfactory or will DHS develop a list of acceptable documents?