More than a year and a half after COVID-19 concerns prompted the US to close its borders to international travelers from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom and most countries in Europe, restrictions on vaccine status Shifting to focus.
From Monday, the ban on travel from specific countries has ended. The US will allow international travelers, but they must be vaccinated, with a few exceptions.
The US is also reopening land borders with Canada and Mexico to vaccinated people. Most travel from Canada and Mexico to the US is by land rather than by air.
Here are some questions and answers about the changes:
Why are these changes happening?
The government says the goal is to restore more normal travel while limiting the spread of COVID-19. The travel industry and European allies have pushed for an end to country-specific restrictions. Americans have been allowed to visit Europe for months, and Europeans are pressuring America to change its policies.
In 2019, before the pandemic, about a fifth of the roughly 79 million visitors to the US came from Europe.
What are the main requirements?
All adult foreign nationals traveling to the US must be fully vaccinated before boarding their flight. As before, travelers must still show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their departure to the US
Does everyone need vaccination?
Yes, with few exceptions. Children under the age of 18 do not need to be vaccinated, but they do need to have a COVID test. Children 2 and younger are exempt from testing requirements.
What about adults who haven’t been vaccinated?
Since half the world has not been vaccinated, and vaccine distribution has been so skewed in wealthy countries, the Biden administration is leaving a loophole for those who live in countries where vaccines are scarce. That list includes about 50 countries where less than 10% of people have been vaccinated. Travelers from those countries will need permission from the US government to visit, and this cannot be just for tourism or business travel.
The US government says it will allow unvaccinated international visitors to enter the country if there is a humanitarian or emergency reason, such as an emergency medical evacuation. Those exceptions would be enforced “very narrowly” and would require approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A medical exception can also be accompanied by documentation from a physician.
What would the Americans do?
Americans who have not been vaccinated must show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of international travel. If you have been vaccinated, you need to have a test for both Americans and citizens of other countries within three days of your departure. This does not apply to flights within the US
Who is going to enforce the vaccine rules?
It depends on the airlines. They must verify vaccine records and match them with ID, and if they don’t, they could face fines of up to about $35,000 per violation. Airlines will also collect information about passengers for contact tracing efforts. CDC workers will spot-check travelers for compliance in the US
Which vaccines will let you in?
Most but not all of them. Any COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, including the vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson used in the US, as well as those most commonly used overseas, such as AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac. Currently Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, which is authorized in 70 countries, is not allowed. The WHO is reviewing Sputnik but has not approved it.
What if you drive from Mexico or Canada, or take a ferry?
Land borders are only open for “essential” travel. Now, anyone can come, if they have been vaccinated for COVID. Be prepared to show proof of the shot to Customs and Border Protection agents. Children are exempted from necessity.
How will this affect travel?
While the administration is marking it as reopening, some people who were technically allowed to visit the US earlier in the pandemic are now blocked because of their vaccination status. Other barriers to resumption of normal travel are major delays in the issuance of US visas, which in most countries require people to travel to the US for business and tourism, and restrictions in other countries that make travel difficult. Huh.
Even though people coming from China will now be allowed into the US, for example, many people are not expected to travel because of the restrictions at home. Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists were a lucrative market for the US travel industry.
Industry experts expect a huge influx of people flying in from Europe, and expect travel to improve drastically as more people get vaccinated globally, US visa processing accelerates, other countries lift their own restrictions and people are less afraid about getting COVID because of travel.