Reopening of all International Travel to the United States and Worldwide COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement
The White House has issued a new Presidential Proclamation, which revokes the previously implemented country-specific COVID-19 travel restrictions affecting the Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, China, Iran, India, and South Africa (Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 10143, and 10199) and replaces them with a new policy of reopening all international air travel to the United States to only those noncitizen nonimmigrants who are fully vaccinated with a recognized COVID-19 vaccine. “Noncitizen nonimmigrants” are individuals who are not U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or U.S. nationals and who are traveling to the U.S. for a temporary period. This Presidential Proclamation is effective 12:01 AM Eastern Time on November 8, 2021, until the President modifies or terminates the proclamation. This Presidential Proclamation does not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, or U.S. nationals.
By Presidential Proclamation, noncitizen nonimmigrant travelers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be permitted to enter the United States by air starting November 8, 2021, unless they fall into the following categories of travelers:
• Individuals for whom the acquisition of a COVID-19 vaccine is age inappropriate per guidance by the Director of the CDC;
• Children under 18 years of age;
• Individuals with documented medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine;
• Participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials;
• Individuals who have been issued a humanitarian or emergency exception by the Director of the CDC;
• Nonimmigrant visa holders (excluding B-1 or B-2 visa holders) who are unable to secure COVID-19 vaccines in their country of citizenship due to vaccine supply issues;
• Members of the U.S. armed forces or their spouses or children under 18 years of age;
• Certain government/diplomatic visa holders: 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;
• Individuals who are traveling within the scope of Section 11 of the United Nationals Headquarters Agreement or pursuant to a legal obligation;
• C-1 and D sea crew members complying with industry protocols regarding COVID-19 safety; and
• Individuals who are deemed by the Secretary of State, Transportation, or Homeland Security to be entering the United States for national interest reasons.
Those unvaccinated noncitizen nonimmigrant travelers who are permitted to enter the United States under an exception will be subject to other COVID-19 control policies such as pre-departure COVID-19 testing, masking, and post-arrival testing, self-quarantine or self-isolation requirements as mandated by the Director of the CDC. In addition, they will need to agree to become fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine within 60 days of their arrival in the United States (or as soon thereafter as is medically appropriate), with exceptions including for individuals who will only remain in the United States for a short period of time.
COVID-19 Testing Requirement Remains in Effect for All Travelers to the U.S.
The new Presidential Proclamation does not remove the COVID-19 testing requirement. Before boarding a flight to the U.S., ALL travelers – noncitizen nonimmigrants, U.S. citizens, U.S. LPRs and U.S. nationals – are required to show one of the following:
• If fully vaccinated: Proof of vaccination, and a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 3 days before travel.
• If NOT fully vaccinated: A negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 1 day before travel.
Children under two years old are not required to test. There are also accommodations for people who have documented recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Additional information about the testing requirement is available at this link.
Practical Recommendations for U.S. Citizens, U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents, and U.S. Nationals
All U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and U.S. nationals two years and older will need to be prepared to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccinations and secure a negative COVID-19 test within 3 days of their travel by air. Unvaccinated U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and U.S. nationals will need to secure a negative COVID-19 test result within 1 day prior to their U.S. flight.
Exemptions exist for individuals who are recovering from COVID-19 within the past 90 days (among others) listed at this link.
Practical Recommendations for Noncitizen Nonimmigrants
Noncitizen nonimmigrants should be prepared to secure proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test result, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 prior to travel. They must also wear masks in all public transportation areas including airlines and airports while traveling into and within the United States.
The CDC has published recognized vaccines and currently acceptable proof of COVID-19 vaccination at this link. Acceptable vaccines for purposes of travel into the United States under the Presidential Proclamation include:
• Janssen / J&J
Currently acceptable proof of vaccination includes vaccination certificates that have a QR code or digital pass via Smartphone, including the EU Digital Covid Certificate and the UK NHS COVID-Pass. Also acceptable are print-outs of COVID-19 records (such as the CDC vaccination card) that are issued by a national or subnational entity or authorized vaccine provider, or digital photos of vaccination cards or records, downloaded vaccination certificates from an official source, or mobile confirmation without a QR code.
The CDC has published guidelines on what is defined as “fully vaccinated” for purposes of the Presidential Proclamation at this link. Generally, two weeks (14 days) must have passed after an acceptable single dose COVID-19 vaccine or the second dose of a two-dose series of vaccine or “active” vaccine trial. Those individuals who have secured mix-and-match combination COVID-19 vaccines are considered to be fully vaccinated two weeks (14 days) after two doses of any mix-and-match vaccines, so long as the vaccines are administered at least 17 days apart.
Impact on Consular Visa Appointments
On November 8, 2021, when the country-specific COVID-19 travel restrictions (Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 10143, and 10199) will be lifted, visa applicants who have been in the above countries within the 14-day period immediately preceding their travel to the United States will no longer need to seek National Interest Exemptions when seeking an appointment. We do nonetheless anticipate a continuation of significant appointment delays at some U.S. consular posts due to increased demand. We also still advise caution in making plans to obtain visa stamps at U.S. consulates abroad; in some cases, applicants are able to secure an appointment but then are having the appointment cancelled by the consulate at the last minute. Emergency appointments may be available for medical or humanitarian purposes. Some posts are also offering emergency appointments to individuals who can establish urgent business in the United States; however, the policy differs according to the consular post. Due to limitations regarding consular appointment availability, third country national appointments have been difficult to secure. We anticipate that this trend will continue through 2022, while consulates address their staffing shortages and appointment backlogs.