COVID-19 travel restrictions

COVID-19 updates: What to know before traveling internationally

Written by William R. Hummel, Esq., Partner, N.C. Board Certified Immigration Law Specialist.

While the coronavirus and public response to changing health conditions continue to evolve in the United States, COVID-19 continues to impact international travel.

With vaccinations widely available in certain countries, some nations have rescinded almost all restrictions for international travelers. Others, such as the United States, continue to enforce certain requirements for both citizens and noncitizens.

Below is detailed information about COVID-19-related mandates for international travelers in the United States and abroad as well as other key details to know.

Traveling/returning to the U.S. via air

The United States continues to enforce certain COVID-19 related mandates for travelers entering the country. Individuals should be aware of the following requirements:

Vaccine requirement

International travelers who enter the U.S. via air have been required since early December 2021 to be “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19.

Noncitizens are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving the recommended dose(s) of a vaccine approved/authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).

As of May 16, 2022, those vaccines include:

  • FDA authorized/approved: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech
  • WHO approved: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm, Novavax/Covovax, Sinovac and Covaxin

A booster dose is not required as of the time of publication.

Additionally, noncitizens must provide proof of vaccination to their airlines as well as Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Multiple forms of proof of vaccination are accepted. 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At minimum, the record used as proof of vaccination must include 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.

Very limited exceptions are available to the vaccination requirement, such as for those under the age of 18, those with medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, or those who are citizens of a foreign country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability (as determined by the CDC).

Individuals considering applying for an exemption should consult with experienced immigration counsel to discuss eligibility.

Lifting of testing requirement

The United States recently lifted the testing requirement for all inbound air travelers as of Sunday, June 12. Since that date, individuals no longer need to take a COVID-19 test and show proof of a negative result to their airline before traveling to the United States.

The Biden administration stated in a press release: “The COVID-19 pandemic has now shifted to a new phase, due to the widespread uptake of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines, the availability of effective therapeutics, and the accrual of high rates of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity at the population level in the United States. … Each of these measures has contributed to lower risk of severe disease and death across the United States. As a result, this requirement which was needed at an earlier stage in the pandemic may be withdrawn.”

The press release added: “CDC continues to recommend that those travelers boarding a flight to the U.S. get tested for current infection with a viral test as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days) and not travel if they are sick.”

Entering the U.S. via Mexico or Canada land borders

The requirements for individuals coming to the U.S. via the land borders with Canada and Mexico are similar to those at air points-of-entry.

All non-citizens entering at these points, traveling for either essential or nonessential purposes, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the same eligibility requirements mentioned above.

Travelers at these points of entry must provide the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with:

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination
  • A verbal attestation confirming their vaccination status
  • A Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) document, which could include a passport, trusted Traveler Program Card or Enhanced Tribal Card
  • Any other pertinent information/documents requested by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents during arrival

Traveling within the U.S.

There are few, if any, COVID-19-related requirements for domestic travelers after citizens and noncitizens enter the United States.

Those traveling within the United States borders are no longer required to wear masks on domestic flights and do not need to provide proof of vaccination to their airlines before boarding an aircraft. Further, there is no COVID-19 testing mandate for domestic travel.

While not required, the CDC continues to encourage mask-wearing on planes and asks individuals not to travel if:

  • They have tested positive for COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms
  • They are waiting to receive COVID-19 test results
  • They are recommended to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure

Additionally, states, cities and municipalities all could have different COVID-19 related mandates and requirements. Individuals should review local information and updates from their destination to receive the most up-to-date details before traveling.

Traveling internationally

International travel is very much in flux because of COVID-19, with rules and regulations varying significantly from country to country. While more and more countries are lifting COVID travel restrictions, there is still significant variance across the globe in policies and documentation. For example, as of early June 2022:

  • Some countries, like Mexico, the Dominican Republic, United Kingdom and Turkey, have little to no COVID-19 related travel restrictions for travelers.
  • Others, like New Zealand and Japan (both which only reopened this year), have more stringent measures and requirements that must be met before entering the country’s borders including COVID vaccination and COVID testing.
  • Some countries such as Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia require use of an official mobile app for contact tracing.

Do also keep in mind that the specific proof of vaccination status accepted significantly varies country to country. For example, several countries will not accept a copy of a CDC card (or other handwritten document) but require additional documentation be provided (or uploaded onto a web portal) to demonstrate COVID-19 vaccination status. This is important to note first and foremost for travelers coming from the United States, where a standard government-issued vaccine certificate or documentation does not exist.

Individuals who plan on traveling internationally should consider consulting with experienced immigration counsel to discuss specific requirements they may encounter during their trip/stay.

Recommendations from Garfinkel Immigration

COVID-19 travel requirements continue to vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and from country to country.

The restrictions in place across the globe are also continually changing and evolving. Therefore, individuals planning to travel abroad should consider consulting with experienced immigration counsel before finalizing specific details. It is also important to keep in mind that consular operations around the world may not be operating at full capacity, meaning visa processing may be delayed.

The attorneys at Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm continue to monitor the situation closely and will provide updates as circumstances progress.

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

Sign up for our newsletter and client alerts and follow us on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) to receive the most up-to-date information.
Translate »