The Biden administration will roll back some COVID-19 related restrictions in the coming months for fully vaccinated foreign travelers, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients announced Monday.
The new policy will take effect in early November, Zients told reporters.
Foreign travelers who show proof they have been fully vaccinated will be able to fly directly into the United States once the measure takes effect. Those travelers will also be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days prior to arriving in the country.
“International travel is critical to connecting families and friends, to fueling small and large businesses, to promoting the open exchange of ideas and culture,” Zients told reporters. “That’s why, with science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide more guidance regarding the definition of “fully vaccinated” and what vaccines will qualify under the new guidelines.
Airlines will also be required to collect contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses, from travelers for contact tracing purposes.
“This will enable CDC and state and local public health officials to follow up with inbound travelers and those around them (if) someone has potentially been exposed to COVID-19 or other pathogens,” Zients told reporters. “(It) will also strengthen our public health surveillance system against any future public health threats.”
Meanwhile, under the new policy, unvaccinated travelers returning to the U.S. will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of attempting to enter the country. They then must provide proof that they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival.
Limited exemptions will be available for children and COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants as well as for individuals traveling for important humanitarian reasons and who lack access to vaccination in a timely manner.
The travel restrictions currently in place suspend the entry of foreign nationals who have been physically present in more than 30 countries in the 14-day period prior to traveling to the U.S. They were initially issued in March 2020 by former President Donald Trump to slow the spread of COVID-19. Exceptions to the restrictions include United States citizens or permanent residents and certain family members.
“The older rules were not equitable, in our view, and they were a bit confusing. And so, this was an effort to pursue that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing Monday. “Obviously, this is the conclusion of a policy process on that particular issue — an important one facing many people around the world.”
Green Card applicants will also be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning October 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced last month.
The U.S. land borders with both Canada and Mexico remain closed for “non-essential” travel. That measure was recently extended again and will remain in effect until at least Oct. 21, 2021.