News|Coronavirus pandemic
US unveils new coronavirus rules for international travel
Starting November 8 adult visitors to the US will need to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 with few exceptions.
Most adult travelers wanting to enter the US after November 8 will need to provide official proof they are fully vaccinated with a jab approved by the World Health Organization [File: Amy Sancetta/AP Photo]
25 Oct 2021
The vast majority of adult travelers who want to visit the US will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 starting November 8.
All visitors older than two years, regardless of vaccination status, will also need to present a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of travel, according to an order signed by US President Joe Biden on Monday.
Airlines will have to collect contact information on passengers to help with contact tracing and store it for 30 days.
Children and teenagers under 18 will be exempt from vaccination travel rules.
The new policy comes as the Biden administration moves away from restrictions that ban non-essential travel from several dozen countries — including most of Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India and Iran — in order to focus on classifying individuals by the risk they pose to others.
“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,” said Biden’s order.
US travel restrictions were first imposed in January 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Under the new travel policy, vaccinated individuals entering the US will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of travel, while the unvaccinated must present a test taken within one day of travel.
All children over two years of age entering the country will need to take a COVID-19 test.
Non-tourist travelers from about 50 countries with nationwide vaccination rates of less than 10 percent will also be eligible for exemption from the vaccination rules.
People receiving that exemption will generally need to be vaccinated if they intend to remain in the US for more than 60 days.
Others who will be exempt from the vaccination requirement include people who participated in COVID-19 clinical trials, and those who had severe allergic reactions to the vaccines.
International travelers will need to provide vaccination documentation from an “official source” and airlines must confirm that the last dose was taken at least two weeks prior to the travel date.
The US will accept any vaccine approved for regular or emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. That includes Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. Mixing-and-matching of approved shots will be permitted.
Quarantine officers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will spot-check passengers who arrive in the US for compliance, a Biden administration official told the Associated Press news agency.
Airlines that don’t enforce the requirements could be subject to penalties of up to nearly $35,000 per violation.
The Biden administration has not proposed a vaccination requirement for domestic travel, saying it would be impractical due to the large number of passengers who fly within the US every day.
The pandemic and resulting travel restrictions have caused international travel to plunge.
“Anyone hoping for an explosion of international inbound visitors will be disappointed,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel-industry analyst in San Francisco told the Associated Press after the new rules were announced.
November 8 will mark the start of the international travel recovery in the US, he said, “but I don’t believe we will see a full recovery until 2023 at the earliest.”
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