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FAQ: INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL AMIDST COVID-19 PANDEMIC

FAQ: INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL AMIDST COVID-19 PANDEMIC

These materials are provided solely for informational purposes and are not legal advice. Transmission of these materials is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Readers should not act upon the information contained in this FAQ without first seeking advice from a qualified attorney. 

(Updated as of December 14, 2021)

International travel has been heavily impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Since March of 2020, foreign national travelers seeking visa stamps from U.S. Consulates abroad and admission to the U.S. have faced multiple barriers and ever-changing restrictions. Please consult our website and specific U.S. Consulate sites for the most up to date information and processes for visa stamp acquisition and reentry.

The level of services offered at worldwide U.S. Consulates, regardless of any applicable formal restrictions, will vary depending on the Consulate, its available resources, and any relevant COVID-19 restrictions it and the host country have implemented. Unfortunately, U.S. Consulates abroad are understaffed and demand for services is high. As a result, Consulates may be closed, scheduled appointments may be delayed or cancelled, and visa issuance could be stalled for lengthy periods.

Given shifting political and COVID-related concerns, international travel is complicated and should be undertaken only after full consideration of the relevant risks. Please note that the below FAQ only covers restrictions related to travel into the United States but does not cover COVID-related complications regarding entry to other countries globally.

Q: What is entailed in the Biden Administration’s vaccination requirement for foreign travelers? 

A: As of November 8, 2021, all foreign national travelers are required to show proof they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to boarding a plane to the U.S. Please note that this vaccination requirement replaces the country-specific travel bans impacting foreign national travelers who had been physically present in China, Iran, the Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India.

As of December 6, 2021, individuals two years of age or older traveling into the United States via air will need to show:

  • Proof of a negative result of a qualifying COVID-19 viral test taken no more than one day before the flight’s departure from a foreign country. This requirement applies regardless of one’s vaccination status or citizenship, OR;
  • Individuals who recently recovered from COVID-19 may instead travel with documentation of recovery (positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before departure along with a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official confirming clearance for travel).

Q: Under the new requirement that all foreign national travelers present proof of vaccination before boarding a flight to the U.S., what is considered “fully vaccinated” and which COVID-19 vaccines are deemed acceptable? 

A: The CDC has provided information on COVID-19 vaccination requirements, available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/proof-of-vaccination.html#covid-vaccines.

Q: What proof of vaccination status will be acceptable?

A: Foreign national travelers must provide the following proof of vaccination:

  • Verifiable digital or paper records: This includes, but is not limited to, vaccination certificates or digital passes accessible via QR code (such as the UK NHS COVID Pass and the European Union Digital COVID Certificate).
  • Non-verifiable paper records: A paper vaccination record or a COVID-19 vaccination certificate issued by a national or subnational level agency or by an authorized vaccine provide (such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination card).
  • Non-verifiable digital records: Digital photos of vaccination card or record, or a downloaded record or vaccination certificate from an official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider), or a record shown on a mobile phone app without a QR code.

Please note that airlines will verify that the form of proof includes a name and date of birth that matches other identification documents, is from an official source within the country where the vaccine was issued, and shows full vaccination. Travelers should confirm with the airline if translation is required for documents not in English.

For land border and ferry crossings, CBP will require similar proof of vaccination and that the traveler attest to their reason for travel.

Q: Are there any exceptions to the requirement that all foreign national travelers must show proof of vaccination?

A: Certain travelers are not required to show proof of vaccination to board a flight to the United States. These include:

  • S. citizens
  • S. nationals Legal Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders)
  • Children under 18
  • Those who participated or are participating in CDC-approved clinical trials
  • Those for whom approved COVID-19 vaccination is medically contraindicated as determined by a licensed physician
  • Those granted humanitarian or emergency exceptions by the Director of the CDC
  • Citizens of countries where less than 10% of the population is vaccinated, and who seek entry pursuant to a nonimmigrant visa (not including B-1/B-2 travelers)
  • Members of the U.S. armed forces and their spouses and children
  • Those whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretaries of State, Transportation, or Homeland Security or their designees
  • Diplomats or individuals on official government travel (A-1, A-2, C-3, E-1 (TECRO or TECO), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, NATO 6)
  • Individuals invited by the United Nations
  • Sea crew members (C-1 and D)
  • Airline crew members

Q: Should I be aware of any other travel requirements in addition to showing proof of vaccination?

A: Before boarding a flight to the United States, all air travelers over the age of 2 are required to show:

  • Proof of a negative result of a qualifying COVID-19 viral test taken no more than one day before the flight’s departure from a foreign country. This requirement applies regardless of one’s vaccination status or citizenship, or
  • Individuals who recently recovered from COVID-19 may instead travel with documentation of recovery (positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before departure along with a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official confirming clearance for travel).

If you are not vaccinated, you will also be required to attest that:

  • You will be tested 3-5 days after arrival in the United States, unless you recovered from COVID-19 within the past 90 days;
  • You will self-quarantine for a full seven days, unless you have recovered from COVID-19 within the past 90 days; and
  • You will self-isolate if the post-arrival test is positive or if you develop COVID-19 symptoms.
  • If you plan to be in the United States longer than 60 days, you must attest that you agree to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and you have arranged for vaccination within 60 days of arriving in the United States, unless you are eligible for an exemption from receiving the vaccine.

Q: What if I am unvaccinated but have recently recovered from COVID-19?

A: Individuals who recently recovered from COVID-19 may instead travel with documentation of recovery (positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before departure along with a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official confirming clearance for travel).

Q: Can “non-essential” travelers now enter through land borders from Mexico and Canada?

A: Yes, the United States will now allow fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico and Canada to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings. Please note that entering the U.S. to perform work for a U.S. company is typically considered “essential travel,” but please confer with Weaver Schlenger or your immigration attorney with specific questions.

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