Starting November 8, all foreign nationals entering the United States must be fully vaccinated—here’s everything you need to know

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After announcing last month that it will lift the ban on international travel for those who are fully vaccinated starting on November 8, the Biden administration has now released the full details of its plan, which requires vaccination for all foreign nationals entering the United States, with few exceptions.

“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 an October 25 presidential proclamation establishing the new order that “suspends the entry of unvaccinated noncitizen nonimmigrants, except in limited circumstances.”

Foreign nationals travelling from the 26-nation European Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, China, or Iran have been barred from entering the United States since a presidential proclamation shutting down the borders to prevent the spread of coronavirus was signed in March 2020. (The proclamation was renewed in January 2021 by President Biden, who also added South Africa to the list.)

What Biden’s new order does is allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals travelling from those countries to finally enter the United States, but it also makes it a requirement for the vast majority of all other foreign nationals entering the United States to be vaccinated as well.

The vaccine requirement for foreign nationals does not apply to U.S. citizens and residents and is in addition to the negative COVID test required for everyone, including U.S. citizens and residents, entering the United States.

Unvaccinated Americans will have slightly different testing rules come November 8, however.

Currently, all international passengers flying into the United States who are age two and older—including returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents—must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test (PCR, antigen, or approved home or self-tests) taken within three days prior to boarding their flight to the U.S.

Starting on November 8, fully vaccinated Americans will continue to be held to this requirement, but unvaccinated Americans will need to be tested within 24 hours of boarding their flight to the U.S. (versus three days, making it even more of a last-minute scramble).

Originally, the Biden administration had signalled that there would also be a postentry test requirement for unvaccinated Americans, but according to the new CDC rules that were issued on October 25, there is no such postentry testing requirement.

Instead, all international air arrivals entering the United States will be asked to provide the airline with their contact information before boarding their flight to the U.S. to assist with contact tracing efforts.

Details of the vaccine requirement for international travel

The CDC considers someone to be fully vaccinated as long as it has been 14 days since they have received the required single or double dose of vaccines approved either by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization (WHO), which includes the FDA-approved Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and the WHO-authorized Oxford-AstraZeneca/Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac vaccines.

Acceptable proof of vaccination will include a digital or paper vaccine certificate, including the United Kingdom National Health Service COVID Pass and the European Union Digital COVID Certificate. For those using a digital QR code, the code must link to information confirming that the proof of vaccination comes from an official immunization record.

The proof of vaccination must include the traveller’s full name and date of birth and must match the information on their passport or other travel documents. It also needs to have the official source that issued the record, such as the public health agency, government body, or other authorized vaccine providers, as well as the vaccine manufacturer and date(s) of inoculation.

What are the exceptions to the U.S. vaccine requirement?

First, those who do not have an exception to this requirement are those who are not vaccinated due to “religious reasons or other moral convictions,” according to the CDC order outlining the precise details of the vaccination requirement.

Official exceptions include:

  • Children under 18
  • Those with documented medical reason that makes it inadvisable for them to receive a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Diplomats and foreign officials
  • U.S. Armed Forces members, their spouses, and children
  • Sea crew members

Also exempt are citizens of countries with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability, which as of October 25 includes 50 countries with vaccination rates below 10 per cent. The CDC will update this list every 90 days. Travellers from these countries will need to have a valid nonimmigrant visa that is not a B-1 or B-2 visa.

Those who fall under one of the above exceptions and are age two and older must provide a negative COVID test from within one day prior to their departure flight to the U.S. or provide proof of having recovered from COVID within the past 90 days. They must also attest that they will be tested within three to five days after arriving in the U.S. and that they will quarantine for seven days.

Source: AFAR

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