The Biden administration will lift COVID-19 related restrictions for all fully vaccinated foreign travelers on Nov. 8, the White House announced Friday.
The new policy will apply to both international land and air travel, White House Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz wrote on Twitter.
“This policy is guided by public health, stringent, and consistent,” Munoz wrote.
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,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters in late September. “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.”
International travelers seeking to enter the United States will only be considered “fully vaccinated” if they have received the recommended dose(s) of vaccines that are approved/authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As of October 15, those vaccines include:
- FDA authorized/approved: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech
- WHO approved: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca/Covishield, Sinopharm and Sinovac
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 in late September. “(It) will also strengthen our public health surveillance system against any future public health threats.”
Meanwhile, under the new policy, unvaccinated American citizens and lawful permanent residents 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 new policy will also open the U.S. land borders with both Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated travelers on Nov. 8. Those borders have been closed for “non-essential” travel since March 2020.
“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 in mid-September. “Obviously, this is the conclusion of a policy process on that particular issue — an important one facing many people around the world.”
As of October 1, Green Card applicants are also required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.