The U.S. will require all adult visitors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for entry, beginning Nov 8, 2021
The U.S. has provided significant new guidance related to travel to the U.S. in light of COVID-19. The most recent of these changes is the Biden Administration announcement of the general requirement for foreign national travellers to the U.S. requiring complete COVID-19 vaccinations starting from November 08, 2021. The Biden Administration announced a new Proclamation and instructions for airlines, released new Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Orders on vaccination, testing, and contact tracing.
Biden Administration Presidential Proclamation to Advance the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As previously reported, the Administration has issued new guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations for adult foreign national non-immigrant travellers, including visitors, students, most workers, and Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) travellers.
From November 08, 2021, most foreign national air travellers will be required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide evidence of such before boarding a flight to the U.S. Children under 18 years old are excepted from these requirements. Otherwise, there are only relatively limited exceptions to the vaccination requirement discussed more below.
These changes replace the current system of 14-Day Travel Bans from certain countries started during the previous Trump Administration and continued by the current Administration discussed more here.
The vaccinations accepted for these non-citizen travellers will be U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines with full dosages administered greater than two weeks before U.S. travel.
These vaccinations include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines. All vaccines currently approved in Australia are contained within these two sets of vaccinations.
Exceptions to U.S. vaccination requirements for foreign national travellers
Besides children, there are only minimal exceptions to the vaccination requirements for foreign national travellers. These exceptions include the following foreign national travellers:
- Involved in specific COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials
- Medical contradictions that the CDC has approved
- Granted an exception by the CDC for humanitarian or emergency reasons
- Non-visitor (B-1 or B-2 visa or Visa Waiver Program) travel for travellers from countries as determined by the CDC with low-vaccine availability (the CDC will publish a specific list)
- Certain sea crew members travelling on a C-1 or D visa
In addition to the requirements on these foreign national travellers, the Proclamation enacts testing and other health requirements for all air travellers, including U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders).
These new orders supplement the current CDC requirements related to a negative test within three days of U.S. travel or documentation of recent COVID-19 recovery. These testing requirements will continue for those fully vaccinated travellers of a negative test within three days of travel and an unvaccinated child between 2- and 17-years old travelling with a fully vaccinated adult.
A negative COVID-19 viral test result from a sample taken no more than 1 day before travel is required for adult travellers who are not fully vaccinated. Children between 2 and 17-years old travelling with a not fully vaccinated adult will need to complete the same 1 day before testing requirement.
In addition, these new requirements enhance masking requirements in indoor areas of public transportation travelling into, within, or out of the United States and indoors at U.S. transportation hubs, including airports.
Furthermore, The CDC announced that they will require passengers to provide contact information to the airline before boarding a flight to the U.S. for contact tracing to notify COVID-19 exposure. The airlines will be required to retain this information for 30 days and transmit the information to CDC as requested.
Additional information and guidance will be issued in the coming days on this new policy as the CDC provides further guidance on the Proclamation’s implementation. For example, it has been noted that foreign nationals with Humanitarian or Advanced Parole do not seem to have at this time clear guidance related to any U.S travel.
Immigrant Visa Applications and Adjustment of Status Vaccination Requirements Starting October 01, 2021
These new travel rules also operate systematically with recently enacted requirements adding COVID-19 vaccination requirements to U.S. medical exams both for immigrant visa processing at a consular post abroad and for those seeking Adjustment of Status within the U.S. Those seeking green cards to the U.S. through family, employment, investment, or the Diversity Visa Lottery. The CDC added COVID-19 vaccinations to the other routine required vaccinations starting on October 01, 2021.
The Department of State (DOS) for Immigrant visas announced this new requirement for immigrant and K visas. Like for foreign national travellers above, a complete series of FDA-approved or WHO EUL vaccines are accepted. These requirements and medical waivers will be reviewed as part of the standard medical exam by the Panel Physician as part of these visa cases in line with CDC instructions.
Likewise, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that a complete series of FDA-approved vaccinations would be generally required related to medical exams for Adjustments of Status. The Civil Surgeon reviews these requirements and medical waivers in line with CDC instructions.
An applicant for immigrant and K visa or Adjustment of Status required to be vaccinated may file and receive a waiver of the vaccination requirements only if there is a bona fide religious or moral objection to the vaccinations.
These waivers create significant complexity to these types of cases for U.S. green cards and should be reviewed and discussed well in advance during the planning of these cases.
About The Author
Jeremy Weber earned his BA in Political Science from Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey and then went on to study law at the University of Kentucky College of Law in Lexington. He has extensive experience with immigration cases handled by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of State Consulates and Embassies throughout Australia and Southeast Asia, as well as the National Visa Center.