Biden Administration Rescinds Travel Bans and Releases Additional Details on New COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Requirements for International Air Travel

Effective November 08, 2021

On October 25, 2021, the Biden administration published a fact sheet  detailing the implementation of its new international air travel policy requiring international travelers to the United States to be fully vaccinated. This new policy will replace current Presidential Proclamations restricting travel from certain countries and areas. Beginning on November 8th, all nonimmigrant international travelers, with few exceptions, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination to fly to the United States.  All vaccinated persons attempting to enter the US must obtain a negative COVID-19 test within three calendar days prior to departure.  

Are F and J visa holders required to be fully vaccinated to enter the United States?

F and J visas are required to be fully vaccinatedF and J visa holders are exempt from the vaccine requirement only in these cases 

  • if they are from a country with a less than 10% vaccination rate or countries otherwise determined by the CDC as having limited vaccine availability (US CDC identifies countries that qualify for this exemption in Table 4 of the Technical Instruction),    
  • if they have medical contraindications, 
  • if they are traveling due to humanitarian/emergencies as defined by the CDC,  
  • if they participated in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials as determined by the CDC, or  
  • if their entry would be in the “national interest” as determined by the State Department, Transportation Department, and Department of Homeland Security.    

What do I need to know regarding COVID vaccination requirements?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers a person to be fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines; or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. The CDC states that this guidance applies to COVID-19 vaccines currently approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson [J&J]/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines) and can be applied to COVID-19 vaccines that have been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (such as AstraZeneca/Oxford). The United States will not accept all COVID-19 vaccines. Please refer to the WHO for a list of approved COVID-19 vaccines prior to traveling to the United States. 

Who is exempt from the COVID vaccination/immunization requirements?

Only a limited number of international travelers to the United States will be exempt from the vaccination requirement, including children under 18, certain COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants, people with certain medical conditions, people traveling for emergency or humanitarian travel, and other very narrow categories.  

International travelers who receive a vaccine exemption to fly to the United States may be required to get vaccinated in the United States if they stay for more than 60 days or to make other public health attestations. 

In addition, the CDC will be issuing a Contact Tracing Order requiring all airlines flying to the United States to provide passenger contact information to the CDC in the event that passengers need to be notified about potential COVID-19 exposure on a flight to the United States 

Unvaccinated travelers, whether U.S. Citizens, lawful permanent residents, and certain nonimmigrant visa holders, who are exempt from the vaccination requirement, must take a COVID-19 test within one calendar day prior to departure. 

What do I need to consider when planning my travel to the United States?

Although travel from certain countries/regions will no longer be restricted, appointment backlogs at United States embassies and consulates continue to be an issue for international travelers who need visas. Any international travel from the United States that will require a visa to return to the United States should be carefully considered. 

International students, scholars, faculty and staff who have questions about the new travel requirements for entry to the United States, or concerns regarding their departure plans from the United States, can contact the International Safety Office (ISOat [email protected]. The ISO works  closely with the Office of Global Services and the Office of the General Counsel to support the Northeastern community. 

What do I need to consider when planning travel by land to the United States?

Non-essential travel: Effective November 8, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will allow international travelers to enter the United States through a Canada or Mexico land border or ferry terminal for “non-essential travel,” as long as they have been fully vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine. Non-essential international border travel – which includes tourism and personal visits – has been banned since March 2020 due to the COVID emergency. The new policy lifts this restriction for fully vaccinated international travelers only; unvaccinated international travelers will still be barred from engaging in nonessential land border travel through at least January 21, 2022.