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

Current Situation

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. first put restrictions on people from China traveling to the USA in January 2020. Following that, other countries such as Iran, South Korea, Africa etc. were restricted. The travel ban extended to the Schengen area in Europe in April 2020, and more recently to India in May 2021.

The current travel ban affects travel from China, Iran, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India.

It is important to know that these restrictions apply to all non-U.S. citizens and non-green card holders that have been to any of those countries in the past 14 days, and not necessarily the residents or citizens of those countries.

At the same time, travelers from several countries like Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Serbia were allowed to visit. That meant, if someone from Europe or India really wanted to visit the U.S., they would have to stay in nonrestricted countries for 14 days before traveling to the U.S. This severely limited the travel to very few people from the restricted countries.

New Rule from Early November

Starting November 8, 2021, all non-U.S. citizens wishing to enter the U.S. will need to be fully vaccinated, and must provide a negative coronavirus RT-PCR test within three days of travel to the USA.

Exactly When?

Travel to the U.S. for foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated and provide a negative RT-PCR test within three days of travel to the USA will open November 8, 2021.

What Does Fully Vaccinated Mean?

Fully vaccinated means at least two weeks have passed since you have taken the last required dose for the COVID-19 vaccine.  

E.g., Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. In this case, you must have taken the second dose at least two weeks prior to your departure to the U.S. On the other hand, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) requires only one dose. In that case, you must have taken that first and only dose at least two weeks prior to departure for the USA.

Children too young to be vaccinated are expected to be exempted. Additional guidance is expected to follow regarding unvaccinated children, those from countries where vaccines are not widely available, those who have recently taken part in COVID-19 clinical trials, or individuals who have recently contracted COVID-19 and are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

Which are the Approved Vaccines?

As of October 8, the U.S. government has stated that it will accept all vaccines approved in the U.S., as well as those authorized for full or emergency use by the World Health Organization.

U.S. Approved Vaccines

  1. Pfizer-BioNTech
  2. Moderna
  3. Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)

WHO Authorized Vaccines

  1. Oxford-AstraZeneca (CoviShield)
  2. Sinopharm-BBIBP
  3. Sinovac

For persons traveling from India to the U.S., it is important to note that Covaxin is not currently WHO approved, but a decision regarding its acceptance is expected the week of October 11. There are also vaccines such as Sputnik from Russia, Novavax, and so on, that are not currently WHO approved.

What is an Adequate Proof of Vaccination?

Even though there is no official guidance provided yet, it is expected that whatever the normal proof of vaccination provided to the vaccinated people in a given country should be sufficient.

E.g., in the U.S., you get a card. In India, you get a full-page printout.

In any case, the proof of vaccination will likely need your name, date(s) of vaccination, the name of the vaccine, and where you received it. Some countries might add other identifying information such as passport number, national ID number etc. in the vaccination proof.

Travelers from Non-Banned Countries

As the new rule is applicable on an individual basis, and not a by-country basis, it is applicable as well to travelers from other countries such as Mexico, Singapore, Serbia, or any other country. In other words, all foreign nationals must be fully vaccinated before they can enter the U.S.

That also means that green card holders that could previously enter the U.S. will now have to get vaccinated as well.

U.S. Citizens

U.S. citizens will continue to remain eligible to enter the U.S. even if they are not fully vaccinated. However, they will have to provide the proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of their travel to the U.S. After they land in the U.S., they will have to get tested again.

Canada and Mexico Land Borders

According to the White House, the new rule regarding international travel will apply to those entering the U.S. via 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 be fully vaccinated, and must provide a negative coronavirus RT-PCR test within three days of travel to the USA.

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

The cost of healthcare in the U.S. is extremely high, and most people can’t afford it without the proper 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.

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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