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White House Issues Detailed Requirements for Foreign Travelers Entering US

October 25, 2021 by Dan McCue
The view from the terminal at Reagan National Airport. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday released granular new details on the international travel policy set to go into effect on Nov. 8.

In a conference call with reporters senior White House officials reiterated the administration’s original announcement: Namely that all non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers to the U.S. after that date will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of their vaccination status prior to boarding a U.S.-bound aircraft.

But the updated travel guidelines, which are being formally announced by presidential proclamation, are accompanied by three new orders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccination, testing and contact tracing.

The new rules are being rolled out about a month after the administration laid out its broad outline for the resumption of international travel and two weeks before the new rules are set to go into effect.

“This is to ensure airlines and passengers are accustomed to them by the implementation date,” a senior administration official said.

The only narrow exemptions to the proof of vaccination rules will be for children under 18, those who have severe allergic reactions to the vaccine, those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons and those who are traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once passengers show their vaccination status to their air carrier, the airlines will need to:

  • Match the name and date of birth to confirm the passenger is the same person reflected on the proof of vaccination;
  • Determine that the record was issued by an official source in the country where the vaccine was given;
  • 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, and site of vaccination.

The CDC has determined that for purposes of travel to the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorized and World Health Organization emergency use listed vaccines.

Individuals will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receipt of the last dose if they have received any single dose of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO approved single-dose series, or any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series.

Enhanced Testing

Previously, all travelers were required to produce a negative viral test result within three days of travel to the United States. Both nucleic acid amplification tests, such as a PCR test, and antigen tests qualify.

But the new system tightens those requirements, mandating that unvaccinated U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents will need to provide a negative test taken within one day of traveling.

That means that all fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and LPRs traveling to the United States should be prepared to present documentation of their vaccination status alongside their negative test result.

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.

For anyone traveling 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.

Requirements for Children

Children under 18 are exempted from the vaccination requirement for foreign national travelers, 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 traveling 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 traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults, they will have to test within one day of departure.

Limited Exceptions from the Vaccination Requirement:

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 U.S. if they intend to stay in the country for more than 60 days.

Contact Tracing

The CDC is also issuing a Contact Tracing Order that requires all airlines flying into the United States to keep on hand – and promptly turn over to the CDC when needed – contact information that will allow public health officials to follow up with inbound air travelers who are potentially infected or have been exposed to someone who is infected.

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