The United States is finally reopening its borders after 20 months! On November 8, 2021, thirty countries will see the endless travel ban lifted for vaccinated travelers. While the borders of the Schengen area had reopened last June for travelers coming from the United States, the opposite was not reciprocal. Many families from our extended community – and beyond – are finally able to reunite again!

Columbus Consulting Group details the traveling requirements and restrictions.

I. Overview

• Who can benefit from the end of the travel restrictions?
The new Proclamation authorizes the entry into the United States via air travel of noncitizens, nonimmigrants who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with certain exceptions. A negative COVID-test (PCR or antigen) is still required regardless of vaccination status to enter the U.S.

• Who is considered fully vaccinated?
According to the CDC, people are considered “fully vaccinated” either:
– 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
– 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

If you don’t meet these requirements, regardless of your age, you are NOT fully vaccinated.

• What is the effective date of the new Proclamation?
The new Proclamation is effective starting Monday, November 8, 2021, at 12:01 AM (EST).

II. Proof of Vaccination

• What document is accepted as proof of vaccination?
In its Technical Instructions, the CDC has identified three documentation categories considered acceptable proof of COVID-19 vaccination, which require varying review processes by the airlines:

1. Verifiable digital or paper records: This includes, but is not limited to, examples such as vaccination certificates or digital passes accessible via QR code (such as the UK NHS COVID Pass and the European Union Digital COVID Certificate).

2. “Non-verifiable” paper records: A paper vaccination record or a COVID-19 vaccination certificate issued by a national or subnational level or by an authorized vaccine provide (such as the CDC vaccination card).

3. “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 providers), or a record shown on a mobile phone app without a QR code.

Travelers will be required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of that vaccination before boarding a  plane to the United States. Per a White House Fact Sheet issued on October 25, 2021, passengers will need  to provide proof of vaccination to airlines who will: 

– Match the name and date of birth to the information on the vaccination documentation.
– Determine that the record was, in fact, issued by an official source (public health agency,  government agency, or authorized vaccine provider) within the country it was given.
– Review the information to determine if the vaccination meets the CDC’s definition of full vaccination, including being approved or authorized by the FDA or included on the WHO list of emergency use vaccines.
– The received dosage, relevant dates of administration, and the location of the vaccination will also be reviewed. 

III. Exceptions to Vaccine Requirement 
  • Who is exempt from the vaccine requirement?
    The Proclamation does not apply to United States citizens, lawful permanent residents, or those traveling on immigrant visas.

In addition, the new Proclamation provides several exceptions to the vaccine requirement:

Children under the age of 18.
Clinical Trials: Those who have participated or are participating in clinical trials for COVID-19  vaccination, as determined by the CDC Director.
Contraindications: Those for whom approved COVID-19 vaccination is medically contraindicated. A letter must be provided to the airline from a licensed physician documenting the contraindication before boarding.
Humanitarian and Emergency Exceptions: Those granted humanitarian or emergency exceptions by the Director of the CDC in limited circumstances for individuals who need to travel to the U.S. for their health and safety and are unable to complete the vaccine requirement before doing so.
Limited Vaccine Availability: Citizens of a country with less than 10% of the population vaccinated with any available COVID-19 vaccine, who seek to enter the United States pursuant to a nonimmigrant visa, except for a B-1/B-2 visa.
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their Spouses and Children; Diplomats or Persons on Official Government Travel; United Nations Travel; Sea Crew Members; Airline Crew  Members.
National Interest Exceptions (NIEs): Those whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretaries of State, Transportation, Homeland Security or their designees. These individuals will need to show an official U.S. government letter documenting approval of the exception. It is unclear if the current process for obtaining an NIE in that specific case will continue. 

While the categories of persons above are excepted from the vaccination requirement, these individuals will be subject to more rigorous testing requirements as well as a requirement that they are vaccinated against  COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States, with limited exceptions, such as for those whose intended stay is sufficiently brief.

IV. Before boarding a flight to the United States

Before boarding a flight to the United States, you are required to show one of the following:

– If you are fully vaccinated: Proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 3 days before travel.
– If you are NOT fully vaccinated: a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 1 day before travel.
– Children under 2 years old do not need to get tested.

Safe Travels!

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