Travelers coming to the U.S. will need to abide by a new set of COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements, according to a change in guidelines from the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new guidelines involve COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and contact tracing for people flying into the U.S.
These updated requirements, which take effect November 8, 2021, also mean that previous international travel restrictions will be lifted. Those early pandemic travel restrictions essentially barred non–U.S. citizens in many countries, including much of Europe, from traveling to the U.S. But now the White House recognizes that, with rising vaccination rates and increasing efforts to provide vaccines to lower-income countries, international air travel to the U.S. can resume—with some precautions still in place.
“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 Biden said in an official statement.
As of November 8, people who are traveling to the U.S. and are not citizens of the country will be required to be fully vaccinated and must show proof of vaccination when they board a plane headed for the States, the White House explained in a statement. Accepted vaccines include those authorized or approved in the U.S. (meaning those from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson), as well as any COVID-19 vaccine that the World Health Organization has listed for emergency use.
There are some limited exceptions to the vaccination rule. For instance, people under age 18 (who have limited vaccine options), people taking part in some COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, and “those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons (with a U.S. government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel),” do not necessarily need to be fully vaccinated to enter the country, the White House says.
People coming to the U.S. must also show a negative COVID-19 test. Fully vaccinated people will be able to show a negative test from within the last three days of their departure while unvaccinated U.S. citizens must provide a negative test result from within the last day.
The new White House guidelines also require airlines to participate in improved contact tracing efforts, including keeping passenger contact information on hand. They will also be required to hand over that information to the CDC if a passenger may have been exposed to COVID-19 or may be infected with the virus. “This is a critical public health measure both to prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread of new variants of COVID-19 as well as to add a critical prevention tool to address other public health threats,” the White House says.
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