U.S. Lifting Travel Restrictions for Visitors to USA – What Does the Travel Ban Lift Mean for Foreigners?

U.S. Travel Ban Prior to November 8

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, the U.S. implemented numerous travel restrictions for foreign visitors to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. In January, 2020, restrictions were put in place on people traveling from China to the USA. This was followed by restrictions placed on travelers from Iran, South Korea, Africa, and Schengen countries in Europe. Finally, travel from India was restricted in May, 2021.

The U.S. travel ban ultimately affected 33 nations such China, Iran, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and India.

Essentially, all foreign nationals who have been to any of the abovementioned countries in the past 14 days had been unable to visit the U.S., regardless of their residence or citizenship.

Complicating matters, travelers from countries such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Serbia were still allowed to visit the United States. This meant that the only path for residents of Europe, India, and the other banned countries to visit the U.S. was by first spending at least 14 days in a nonrestricted country before traveling to the U.S., severely limiting the ability of travelers from those countries to visit the U.S.

November 8 Travel Ban Lift

This travel ban lifts on November 8 2021, allowing foreign visitors to once again visit the U.S., but only under the following conditions: Visitors must be fully vaccinated by an FDA or WHO-approved vaccine, and they are required to provide a coronavirus RT-PCR test with a negative result within three days of travel to the U.S. Citizens of the U.S. and permanent resident Green Card holders are exempt from the vaccination requirement, but they are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.

Defining “Fully Vaccinated”

In order to be considered fully vaccinated, individuals must have received all required doses of the vaccine they have been inoculated by at least 14 days prior to travel to the U.S. Most vaccines require a course of two doses in order for the individual to be considered fully vaccinated. The exception to this is the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, which only requires one dose.

This means, if you have taken the Janssen vaccine, you must have received the one and only required dose at least 14 days before traveling to the U.S. For all other vaccines, you must have received your second and final dose at least 14 days before traveling to the U.S. If you have only received a single shot of a two-dose vaccine, you would not be considered fully vaccinated, and will not meet U.S. vaccination requirements.

Approved Vaccines

The U.S. government has announced that travelers to the U.S. must be fully vaccinated by a vaccine that is approved by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), or both of these bodies.

The following vaccines qualify as of November 3, 2021:

FDA & WHO-Approved Vaccines:

  • Moderna
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Pfizer-BioNTech

WHO-Approved Vaccines:

  • Covaxin
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca
  • Sinovac
  • Sinopharm BBIBP-CorV

Note: Those who have been fully vaccinated by the Covishield vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, will be allowed to enter the U.S. so long as they meet all other requirements. The Covishield vaccine is the same formulation as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and is therefore approved just as Oxford/AstraZeneca is.

Unapproved Vaccines

Understandably, many people hoping to visit the U.S. have received full vaccination with a vaccine that is not yet approved by the WHO. These include Sputnik-V developed in Russia. Officials are hopeful that the Sputnik vaccine will receive WHO approval by the end of 2021.

India’s Covaxin is the latest vaccine to join the WHO approval list, receiving EUL (Emergency Use Listing Procedure) approval on November 3.

For an updated list of WHO-approved vaccines and their status in the approval process, visit this website.

Providing Proof of Vaccination

The format of your proof of vaccination will depend upon the country in which you are vaccinated. In some countries, such as the U.S., you receive a card. In other countries, such as India, a full-page printout is provided.

Regardless of the format, your proof of vaccination must provide the following information for entry into the U.S.:

  • Name and date of birth matching the information on your passport exactly
  • Vaccine name
  • Dates of vaccinations
  • Batch number or other form of vaccination proof
  • Phone number and email address for contact tracing
  • Proof of having made quarantine and self-isolation arrangements after arrival, as determined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Who Enforces the Vaccination Requirement?

As of now, the airlines have been tasked with enforcing vaccination requirements. Many have created online portals where you can upload your proof of vaccination in advance of your flight. You must follow all vaccination and masking requirements in place at the airport and on the airplane at all times.

It should be noted that failing to comply with these requirements could result in a stiff fine of up to $35,000 per violation.

Is Anyone Exempt from Vaccination Requirements?

Certain groups are allowed to enter the U.S. unvaccinated. These include:

  • U.S. citizens and permanent residents (Green Card holders), members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their spouses and children.
  • Children age 18 or younger
  • Those on a nonimmigrant visa other than B2 or B1 who are residents of a country where less than 10% of population is vaccinated, and vaccine availability is limited.
  • Sea/marine crewmembers on C1/D nonimmigrant visas
  • Travelers on official foreign government, or diplomatic business, as well as those whose entry is determined by the U.S. government to be in the U.S. national interest.
  • Participants in certain COVID-19 trials, and those who cannot receive COVID-19 vaccination for documented medical reasons
  • Travelers issued humanitarian or emergency exceptions by the U.S. government

COVID-19 Testing Requirements for U.S. Visitors

Nonimmigrant visa-holders who have been fully vaccinated by one of the approved vaccines are required to show proof of a negative RT-PCR test within three days of their arrival to the U.S. A rapid antigen test is not considered acceptable for these individuals. It must be an RT-PCR test. The test results must show their name, address, phone number, and passport number, along with an explicit “Negative” result.

Children age two to 17 who are exempt from vaccination requirements must also provide results of a negative RT-PCR test. If they are traveling with vaccinated adults, this test must be within three days of travel to the U.S. Unvaccinated children age two to 17 who are traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults must provide a negative RT-PCR test within one day of travel to the U.S.

U.S. Citizens and permanent residents, though exempt from the vaccination requirements, must also comply with COVID-19 testing requirements as described above.

Canada and Mexico Land Borders

According to the White House, the rules regarding international travel will apply to those entering the U.S. via both air and land borders. As with air travelers, all visitors entering the U.S. via the Canada or Mexico land border starting November 8 will need to comply with the same vaccination and testing requirements as those in place for travelers arriving by air.

U.S. Visa Appointments

The rush for U.S. visa appointments is expected to be very high, as a lot more people will want to travel to the U.S. after a long gap. A pent-up demand is natural. However, U.S. embassies and consulates continue to operate on a limited staff basis. Therefore, getting an appointment for a U.S. visa is likely to remain very difficult for the foreseeable future. It is wise to plan as early as you possibly can.

Consider Purchasing Travel Insurance

Even though more than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, the number of coronavirus cases are still well over 100,000 per day.

Even if you are fully vaccinated, apart from the coronavirus, you may run into new and unexpected medical issues while visiting the USA, such as a cold, flu, fever, diarrhea, pneumonia, upset stomach, food poisoning, car accident, snakebite, slip-and-fall, or any other major illness.

This would be devastating without proper travel insurance, as the cost of healthcare in the U.S. is among the highest in the world. Fortunately, you can visit Insubuy and choose from various U.S.-based travel medical insurance plans that can cover COVID-19 just like any other new sickness that occurs after the effective date of the policy, as well as generally any medical conditions, injuries or accidents that occur after the effective date of the policy.

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