Washington DC: The US will lift all restrictions for fully vaccinated international travellers, including from India, from November 8 but they will have to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight to the country, the White House has announced.
The updated travel guidelines issued on Monday also include new protocols around testing. To further strengthen protections, unvaccinated travellers – whether US Citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or the small number of accepted unvaccinated foreign nationals – will now need to test within one day of departure.
“Under this new international air travel system, foreign nationals will need to be fully vaccinated, in order to fly to the United States. The new system also includes enhanced testing requirements, strengthened contact tracing, as well as masking. These are strict safety protocols that follow the science and public health to enhance the safety of Americans here at home, and the safety of international air travel,” a senior administration official told reporters.
Beginning November 8, non-citizen, non-immigrant air travellers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the US, with only limited exceptions, the official said.
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With this, the United States will lift all travel restrictions specific to all countries and regions.
According to the White House, passengers will need to show their vaccination status, and the airlines will need to match the name and date of birth to confirm that the passenger is the same person reflected on the proof of vaccination; determine that the record was issued by an official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency) in the country where the vaccine was given and review the essential information for determining if the passenger meets CDC’s definition for fully vaccinated such as vaccine product, number of vaccine doses received, date(s) of administration, site (e.g., vaccination clinic, health care facility) of vaccination.
The Biden Administration will work closely with the airlines to ensure that these new requirements are implemented successfully, a senior administration official said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that for purposes of travel to the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorised and World Health Organisation (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines.
Individuals can be considered fully vaccinated for more than weeks after receipt of the last dose if they have received any single dose of an FDA approved/authorised or WHO EUL approved single-dose series (i.e., Janssen), or any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorised or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series (i.e. mixing and matching).
For those Americans who can show they are fully vaccinated, the same requirement currently in place will apply – they have to produce a negative test result within three days of travel, the White House said, adding that for anyone travelling to the United States who cannot demonstrate proof of full vaccination, they will have to produce documentation of a negative test within one day of departure.
Children under 18 are excepted from the vaccination requirement for foreign national travellers, given both the ineligibility of some younger children for vaccination, as well as the global variability in access to vaccination for older children who are eligible to be vaccinated. Children between the ages of 2 and 17 are required to take a pre-departure test.
If travelling with a fully vaccinated adult, an unvaccinated child can test three days prior to departure (consistent with the timeline for fully vaccinated adults). If an unvaccinated child is travelling alone or with unvaccinated adults, they will have to test within one day of departure, the White House said in a fact sheet.
The White House said there are a very limited set of exceptions from the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals.
These include exceptions for children under 18, certain COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants, those with medical contraindications to the vaccines, those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons (with a US government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel), those who are travelling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability (as determined by the CDC), and other very narrow categories.
Those who receive an exception will generally be required to attest they will comply with applicable public health requirements, including, with very limited exceptions, a requirement that they be vaccinated in the US if they intend to stay here for more than 60 days, the White House said. The American travel industry has been asking for President Biden to lift the ban.
In January, former President Donald Trump announced a plan to end the travel ban, saying it was unnecessary because of his administration’s policy that required international travellers to provide proof of a negative test before boarding US-bound flights. But within days of taking office, the Biden administration reinstated the ban and added South Africa, and later India, to the list, citing the need to control the spread of coronavirus variants, The Washington Post reported. In June, the White House formed working groups to help determine when to lift rules that banned international visitors from certain countries, the report added.
Under the restrictions, most foreign nationals who have been in the United Kingdom, several European Union countries, Brazil or China in the previous 14 days are not permitted to enter the United States. India was added to the list in May, it said.