In a Proclamation effective November 8, 2021 at 12:01am, President Biden revoked U.S. bans against nonimmigrant travelers from several countries and created a new global vaccination requirement for all U.S. nonimmigrants arrivals by air. A synopsis of the Proclamation and related travel requirements follows:
- Nonimmigrants (non-U.S. citizens who are visiting the U.S. temporarily) from previously banned countries may now apply for visas at U.S. consulates abroad and travel to the U.S. via air, provided that they are able to present evidence of “full vaccination” as defined by the U.S. Department of Heath via the Centers for Disease Control (“the CDC”). Unvaccinated nonimmigrants may still receive visas at U.S. consulates abroad, but they will not be able to enter the U.S. unless they qualify for one of the exemptions listed in the Proclamation.
- Fully vaccinated international travelers (including U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents) will be required to provide evidence of either a negative COVID-19 test taken within three (3) days of travel, or evidence of recent recovery. Further, all international travelers, even if exempted from the vaccine requirement, will be subject to new airline contact tracing protocols.
- Travelers are exempt from the vaccine requirement if they fall within several categories, including U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents, travelers under the age of eighteen (18), and travelers having a medical contraindication to vaccination. No religious or moral exemptions are available. Unvaccinated travelers (including U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents) who are eligible for an exemption may be subject to additional requirements, including one-day pre-arrival testing, consent to post-arrival vaccination, and quarantine.
- The CDC has issued guidance about the types of vaccines that will satisfy the “fully vaccinated” requirement here. Clients and their employees are encouraged to check this website periodically for updates.
- The Proclamation does not address land border crossings of foreign national travelers from Canada and Mexico. However, we expect that the Biden Administration will announce changes to the current restrictions in the near future, including the reopening of the border to non-essential and recreational travelers in two phases in coming months.
Background and Full Discussion
In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 within the U.S., the Trump and Biden administrations issued a series of Proclamations throughout 2020 and 2021 that restricted travel from China (PRC), Iran, EU Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India. President Biden has determined that the development and widespread distribution of effective COVID-19 vaccines warrants a shift from a country-by-country mitigation scheme to one focused on an individual’s vaccination status. To that end, President Biden has revoked all prior Proclamations restricting travel to the U.S. and has replaced them with “A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic” on October 25, 2021. The complete text of the Proclamation can be found here.
Pursuant to the Proclamation, all foreign national nonimmigrants seeking to enter the U.S. must present evidence that they have been fully vaccinated before embarking on a U.S.-bound flight anytime on or after November 8, 2021 at 12:01 EST. Travelers need not have been fully vaccinated when they apply for their visa stamp, if required, but must be fully vaccinated by the time they board the aircraft.
Following the Proclamation, the CDC issued companion guidance about the types of vaccines that will satisfy the “fully vaccinated” requirement. The CDC’s current list of acceptable vaccines includes:
An individual is considered to be “fully vaccinated” after fourteen (14) days has elapsed since completing the full course of treatment for their particular vaccine. Additional guidance from the CDC about acceptable vaccines and proof of vaccinations can be found here.
Fully vaccinated international travelers (including U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents) must continue to provide evidence of either a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken within 72 hours prior to embarkation, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 infection.
The following classes of nonimmigrant are exempt from the vaccination requirement:
- Children under the age of eighteen (18)
- Individuals from countries with less than 10% vaccination rate in the population or otherwise determined to have low vaccine availability (B-1/B-2 business and tourism travelers are not eligible for this exemption)
- Individuals with medical contraindications to the COVID-19 vaccine
- Individual who participated in COVID-19 clinical trials
- Certain air and sea crew members
- Certain U.S. armed forces members and their family members
- Certain individual engaged in travel related to diplomacy (including for business related to U.N. and NATO operations)
- Individuals whose admission the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Transportation deem to be in the National Interest.
As stated above, the Proclamation provides no exceptions for moral or religious objection to vaccination.
Exempted nonimmigrants must still comply with several public heath requirements, including:
- One-day pre-arrival testing, including for children between the ages of two (2) and seventeen (17), unless travelling with a fully vaccinated adult (in which case the three (3) day testing requirement applies).
- Post-arrival vaccination. Non-fully vaccinated nonimmigrants must consent to being fully vaccinated within sixty (60) days (or other time frame as determined by the CDC) of arriving in the U.S., unless:
- Vaccination is inappropriate due to age or medical condition
- They will remain in the U.S. for less than sixty (60) days
- They have participated in COVID-19 vaccination trials
- They serve certain diplomatic functions on behalf of other countries
- Other excepted individuals as determined by the CDC
- Compliance with post-arrival mitigation measures, including testing, quarantine, and isolation.
U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents do not fall within the scope of the Proclamation; however, they remain subject to the following CDC requirements:
- Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents must provide evidence of either a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken within 72 hours prior to embarkation, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 infection.
- Unvaccinated U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents must provide evidence of either a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken within 24 hours prior to embarkation, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 infection.