The United States has ended the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for international travelers.
The Biden administration announced in a press release earlier this month that the mandate was officially lifted for air travelers on May 11 and was terminated for individuals entering the U.S. via land ports-of-entry on May 12. The move coincided with the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“Globally, COVID-19 deaths are at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic,” the press release read. “Following a whole-of-government effort that led to a record number of nearly 270 million Americans receiving at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are in a different phase of our response to COVID-19 than we were when many of these requirements were put into place.”
Vaccine requirement: Background information
The vaccine mandate was originally implemented in late 2021, requiring all international travelers entering the United States to be “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19.
While the mandate was in place, individuals were 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). Travelers also had to provide proof of vaccination to their airlines as well as Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Very limited exceptions were available, such as for those under the age of 18, those with medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, or those who were citizens of a foreign country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability (as determined by the CDC).
Evolving COVID Environment
The Biden administration said in the press release the vaccine requirement for international travelers was originally necessary to “slow the spread of new variants entering the country and to allow (the U.S.) healthcare system time to effectively manage access to care,” but that “these measures are no longer necessary.”
“Our COVID-19 vaccine requirements bolstered vaccination across the nation, and our broader vaccination campaign has saved millions of lives,” the press release read. “We have successfully marshalled a response to make historic investments in broadly accessible vaccines, tests, and treatments to help us combat COVID-19.”
The administration also announced in the same press release the upcoming conclusion of the vaccine requirement for federal employees, contractors, head start educators and CMS-certified facilities.
As of the date of this publication, COVID vaccinations are still required for individuals applying for U.S. permanent residence (green cards). For up-to-date information on the vaccination requirement for these purposes, please see the CDC’s website.
Note: This story was last updated on May 13, 2023