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United States lifting Covid-19 related restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign travelers: Frequently asked questions

The Biden administration has officially released its new policy lifting COVID-19 related restrictions for all fully vaccinated foreign travelers.

“I have determined that 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,” President Joe Biden wrote in a proclamation published Oct. 25.

He added: “I further find that vaccination requirements are essential to advance the safe resumption of international travel to the United States.”

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the policy:

When does the new policy take effect?

The new policy will take effect on Monday, Nov. 8.

The White House initially told reporters in late September that it would be rolling back some restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign travelers. Earlier in October, the Biden administration set the official date as Nov. 8, releasing the final implementation and execution details on Oct. 25.

Who is considered “fully vaccinated?”

International travelers seeking to enter the United States will only be considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving 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 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of October 27, 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

Who will this policy apply to?

The new policy applies to the “entry into the United States by air travel of noncitizens who are nonimmigrants and who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.” The measure “does not affect visa issuance,” according the text of the proclamation.

Who does this policy not apply to?

The policy does not apply to:

  • Noncitizens seeking entry as crew members of an airline or other aircraft operator, as long as they adhere to “all industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19”
  • Noncitizens seeking entry into or transiting the U.S. with an A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, E-1, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4 or NATO-6 visa classification
  • Noncitizens who are prevented from receiving a vaccine for medical reasons
  • Noncitizens whose “travel falls within the scope of … the United Nations Headquarters Agreement or who are traveling pursuant to United States legal obligation”
  • Noncitizens whose age makes requiring the vaccine “inappropriate,” as determined by the CDC
  • Noncitizens participating in certain COVID-19 vaccination trials
  • Noncitizens who are granted exceptions from the CDC director for “humanitarian or emergency reasons”
  • Noncitizens who are citizens of a foreign country where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited
  • Noncitizens “whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees”

In most circumstances, noncitizens who enter the country with an exception “must agree to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States, within some other timeframe as determined by the Director of the CDC, or as soon as medically appropriate as determined by the Director of the CDC and must provide proof of having arranged to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 after arriving in the United States,” according to the proclamation.

Exemptions to that measure are available for children, to those whose “intended stay is sufficiently brief” as well as to those for whom “vaccination is medically contraindicated.”

Individuals should contact experienced immigration counsel to discuss whether they qualify for an exception to the policy.

What proof of vaccination must be provided?

There are multiple ways individuals can provide proof of vaccination, according to the CDC website.

Individuals can provide a vaccination certificate with a QR code or a digital pass via a smartphone application with a QR code. They also can display a printout of a COVID-19 vaccination record or a COVID-19 vaccination certificate issued by an authorized vaccine provider; digital photos of a vaccination card/record; a downloaded vaccine record or vaccination certificate from an official source; or a mobile phone application without a QR code, according to the CDC.

Proof of vaccination must include, at minimum, personal identifiers such as full name and date of birth; name of the official source issuing the record; as well as the vaccine manufacturer and date of vaccination.

Will anything else need to be provided before boarding a plane for the United States?

Fully vaccinated individuals also must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days prior to arriving in the U.S. as well as contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses, for contact tracing purposes.

How is the policy different from the previous one?

The travel restrictions that will be in place until Nov. 7 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 current restrictions include United States citizens or permanent residents and certain family members.

How long will the new policy be in place?

The proclamation will remain in effect until it is terminated by the President. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will “recommend whether the President should continue, modify or terminate” the proclamation no more than 60 days after its date of issuance and “by the final day of each calendar month thereafter.”

Does this policy apply to land travel at the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico?

The proclamation released Oct. 25 only applies to air travel into the United States. However, the White House has previously announced that similar policies will be put in place for land travel at the United States borders with both Canada and Mexico. Further details about those measures are expected to be forthcoming. Those borders have been closed for “non-essential” travel since March 2020.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm at 704-442-8000 or via email with any questions.

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