Published on : Friday, September 24, 2021
The Biden administration will allow vaccinated international travellers to enter the United States, including those from previously banned countries.
On Monday, the White House announced that come November, it will lift the ban on most travelers from the European Union, China, Iran, South Africa, Brazil and India, as long as they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test.
The new rules were widely celebrated by many countries whose citizens have been prohibited from entering the United States directly unless they went through inconvenient, and often expensive, maneuvers.
Soon the Mexico workaround will no longer be necessary.
But, the new policy, which applies to everyone traveling from abroad by air, has raised plenty of questions.
Many details are yet to be worked out, but here is a look at what is currently known about how the new policy will affect entry into the United States.
New rules for people from banned countries
For the past 18 months, virtually all visitors from the banned countries, including those that are members of the European Union and a handful of others, have been prohibited from traveling directly to the United States.
Come early November, this policy will no longer apply, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House Pandemic Coordinator announced this on Monday.
Individuals from these countries can fly to the United States, as they did before the pandemic, so long as they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of boarding a flight.
No quarantine will be required.
The C.D.C. will also issue an order directing airlines to collect phone numbers and email addresses of travelers for a new contact-tracing system. Additional details of the contact tracing system have not yet been outlined.
Unvaccinated people who are not American citizens will not be permitted to enter the United States.
When in November will the rules come into effect?
The Biden administration has not yet indicated when in November the new rules will be in place.
Vaccination and its types
A spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that the agency is still in the regulatory process.
But she also said that people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as AstraZeneca and Oxford, will also be valid, the C.D.C. said.
Effect of new rules on people from countries excluded from the banned list
The new policy applies to everyone who is not a U.S. citizen, including individuals from Japan, Singapore, Mexico and many other countries whose citizens have been able to fly to the United States throughout the pandemic. Though vaccination status does not currently affect whether or not these individuals can enter the United States, in November only fully vaccinated travelers will be permitted.
Already these individuals have to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of boarding a flight. This requirement will remain.
The policy applies to all “foreign nationals,” meaning that long-term residents of the United States who are not American citizens would not be able to leave the country and then re-enter unless they are fully vaccinated.
Vaccination influence on U.S. citizens
The vaccination stipulation does not apply to U.S. citizens. But, the new policy does require unvaccinated Americans to provide proof of a negative result from a test taken within one day of their return flight to the United States and to test again after they land.
Children and others who can’t get their jabbs for medical reasons
Most countries that currently require vaccination for entry make exceptions for children too young to be vaccinated. It seems likely that the United States will do the same, but the White House declined to comment on specifics of this policy. It is not yet clear what other exceptions will be made.
Rules for people coming from Canada and Mexico
People flying from Canada and Mexico will face the same restrictions as people flying in from other countries. They must be fully vaccinated, obtain a negative coronavirus test and provide personal information for contact tracing.
Currently, the land borders with Canada and Mexico are closed for all but essential travel, a policy that is expected to remain in place until at least Oct. 21.
The new policy for international visitors only applies to people boarding an airplane, according to Mr. Zients, the White House Pandemic Coordinator.
Therefore it’s possible that an unvaccinated person could still enter the United States by land if their reason for traveling was considered essential.
The definition of “essential” offered by the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Canada includes “work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security.”
Restrictions on entering the United States through November
For people from many parts of the world even before the pandemic access into the United States was not easy. One of the reasons that the travel ban had such a profound impact is that it applied to many of the countries whose citizens traditionally had the easiest time gaining entry to the United States.
The new policy does not rewrite who can enter the United States without a visa, or rewrite the consequences for breaking visa rules by, for instance, staying in the country for longer than allowed.
But it does severely limit who can enter the United States.
Only four percent of the population in Africa is fully vaccinated; less than a third of residents are fully vaccinated in many parts of Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
In some cases, not getting vaccinated is a choice; in others, people simply do not have access to vaccines. Regardless of their reasons, these individuals will no longer be able to travel to the United States.