Please note: This information reflects the travel situation in the fall of 2021. The information may no longer be applicable.
Fully vaccinated travelers from 33 countries including China, India, Brazil and the majority of Europe finally be able to enter the U.S. If you’ve been dreaming of vacationing in the States or visiting your American relatives, now’s the perfect time to start planning. To help with the trip prep, we’ve put together a list of everything you’ll need to know about the reopened borders.
You Must Be Fully Vaccinated
Prior to the reopening, the U.S. had banned countries based on their COVID-19 threat level. If a country was considered high risk for COVID-19 transmission, its citizens were often not allowed to enter the U.S. The Biden administration’s new policy is centered around vaccination status. All Foreign travelers visiting the U.S. must be fully vaccinated to enter the country. If you can not show proof of Covid vaccination you will not be able to enter the country. Fully vaccinated means that it’s been two weeks since your last required vaccine dose.
If you’re not currently vaccinated or considering getting a vaccine booster, make sure you give yourself enough time for the shots and the two-week waiting period.
Are There Exemptions to the Vaccine Requirement?
Children seventeen and under are not required to be fully vaccinated at this time, though this could change once vaccines are approved for minors. In addition to children, there are a few other exemptions. Those participating in certain COVID-19 clinical trials, those required to travel due to emergencies or humanitarian reasons, those traveling on a non-tourist visa from a country with low vaccine availability, members of the armed forces and their immediate families. For more information please refer to the CDC.
What Are the Air Travel Restrictions?
All foreign national air travelers to the U.S. must be fully vaccinated and present proof of their vaccination status prior to departing. Proof of vaccination can be presented in paper or digital formats as long as the record is issued by an official source like the CDC or the WHO or the NHS. The proof of vaccination should include the traveler’s name and birth date, the vaccine manufacturer (Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson etc.) and the date(s) of dose administration. There are very few exceptions to this rule.
Fully vaccinated air travelers to the U.S. must also provide a negative viral COVID-19 test from a sample taken within 72 hours of their U.S.-bound flight. This applies to U.S. citizens and permanent residents as well as foreign nationals.
What about Unvaccinated Minors?
Children under eighteen are expected to be exempt from the vaccination restriction. Though this may change once vaccines are approved and distributed for minors. All children between the ages of 2 and 17 will need to take a viral Covid test before their U.S.-bound departure. For unvaccinated minors traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults, the test sample needs to be taken within one day of departure. For vaccinated children or unvaccinated children traveling with vaccinated adults, the test sample can be taken within three days of departure.
What Vaccines Are Acceptable?
Only travelers inoculated with approved vaccines will be allowed to enter. The U.S. will accept vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators as well as vaccines recognized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO). These vaccines include those made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
What about Mixed-Dose Inoculations?
For various reasons, a person might receive one vaccine dose from two different manufacturers. This is a fairly common occurrence in Canada. That might leave some travelers to wonder if their proof of vaccination will suffice for entry. The U.S. is currently working with Canada to provide a pathway for entry to those who received doses from two or more distinct manufacturers.
Is COVID-19 Testing Required?
The U.S. has adopted a vaccination-and-test strategy for reopening its borders. This means that all vaccinated foreign visitors, as well as vaccinated returning U.S. residents flying to the U.S. must produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of flight departure. However, if you are arriving by land, from Canada or Mexico, for example, you won’t need to show a negative Covid test.
What If a Passenger Submits a falsified Covid Test and/or Proof of Vaccine Record?
All passengers who submit either a Covid test result or present proof of vaccination will need to sign separate affidavits in which they confirm and attest to the validity of each item submitted. An affidavit is considered a record of facts made under oath. This means that lying on the affidavit could be considered an act of perjury.
Falsifying this or any other information related to COVID-19 safety could result in fines and/or criminal prosecution.
You Won’t Need to Quarantine
Fully vaccinated foreigners and U.S. residents will not need to quarantine upon arrival in the United States if they present a valid negative Covid test result taken within the specified time frame.
Contact-Tracing Efforts will Increase
With the influx of foreign tourists, the U.S. plans to steep up their contract-tracing measures. The airlines will be working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to collect passenger information. Consequently, all foreign visitors should expect to have their email addresses and phone numbers entered into the CDC’s contact-tracing system.
What Does this Mean for Unvaccinated Americans & Foreign Nationals?
Currently, there is no national vaccination requirement for Covid. This means that U.S. citizens will not be required to be fully vaccinated to travel within the U.S.
Unvaccinated travelers, whether they be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, or among the very few unvaccinated foreign nationals permitted entry, will be required to show proof of a negative viral Covid test from a test sample taken within one day of travel to the U.S.
Cruise Goers May Need Travel Insurance
If a cruise is part of your U.S. trip itinerary, you’ll want to take the extra precaution of buying cruise insurance. While your cruise line may offer basic travel insurance, you may need more comprehensive coverage. This ensures that you won’t face significant medical debt if you find yourself needing urgent care. Some of the major cruise lines even require travel insurance.
When Exactly Will These Protocols Take Place?
These new requirements will apply to all passengers on U.S.-bound planes departing at or after 12:01 AM Eastern Standard Time on Nov. 8, 2021.
How Will It Affect the Travel System? What to Expect
A few other countries, including India, plan to open their borders for fully vaccinated foreign travelers in November and these openings coincide with the busy holiday season. This sudden surge in demand for international travel may put a strain on the entire travel infrastructure, from passport and visa agencies to flights, hotels and rental car services. Travelers should expect long lines at the airport, overbookings, flight cancelations and delays. With so much beyond the travelers’ control, the best recourse is to focus on what can be controlled. Plan carefully and set realistic expectations.
Travel Insurance Can Help
Is travel insurance required to travel to the USA? It is not required to have travel insurance to visit the U.S., but it can help you manage your travel emergencies. The cost of healthcare in the U.S. is very high and your domestic health insurance won’t cover you while you’re abroad. Travel medical insurance ensures that you’ll get the urgent medical attention you need without having to pay tens of thousands of dollars. The Covid situation in the U.S. only makes it that much more important to protect yourself with travel insurance. Although more than half of the country’s residents are fully vaccinated, your risk of exposure might be higher or lower depending on where you’re traveling within the country. Most travel insurance plans offer Covid coverage if the virus is contracted within the policy active dates.
Rules for Vaccinated & Unvaccinated Travelers
Fully Vaccinated Foreign Travelers:
- You must show proof of vaccination
- No Quarantine Required
- Fully vaccinated air travelers to the U.S. must also provide a negative viral COVID-19 test from a sample taken within three days of their U.S.-bound flight.
- All children between the ages of 2 and 17 will need to take a viral Covid test before their U.S.-bound departure.
Fully Vaccinated U.S. Citizens & Permanent Residents:
- If returning to the U.S. unvaccinated passengers on a U.S.-bound flight must show a negative Covid result from a test sample taken within three days of departure
- You must show proof of vaccination
- No Quarantine Required
- All vaccinated children or unvaccinated children between the ages of 2 and 17 traveling with fully vaccinated adults will need to show proof of negative viral Covid test results taken within three days before their U.S.-bound departure
Unvaccinated Foreign Travelers:
- Very few unvaccinated foreign travelers will be permitted entry. Those who are among a select group of exemptions must show a negative Covid result from a test sample taken within one day of departure
- All unvaccinated children between the ages of 2 and 17 traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults will need to show proof of negative Covid test taken from a test sample one day before their U.S.-bound departure
Unvaccinated U.S. Citizens & Permanent Residents:
- No vaccination requirement for Traveling within the U.S.
- If returning to the U.S. unvaccinated passengers on a U.S.-bound flight must show a negative Covid result from a test sample taken within one day of departure
- All children between the ages of 2 and 17 will need to show proof of negative Covid test taken from a test sample one day before their U.S.-bound departure
After a year and a half of closed borders, international travelers finally get the chance to put their U.S. travel plans into action. With a little prep work, some Covid-safety precautions and suitable travel insurance, your trip to the U.S. can be as safe as it is exciting.