Legal Update

Oct 25, 2021

U.S. Relaxes International Travel Restrictions for Fully Vaccinated Foreign Nationals

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Seyfarth Synopsis: Effective November 8, 2021, the previously implemented country-specific COVID-related travel bans will be revoked.    Fully vaccinated, international air passengers will need to comply with pre-arrival requirements such as providing a negative COVID-19 test.  Foreign nationals who are not fully vaccinated will need to comply with additional requirements such as post-arrivals tests, quarantining/isolation, and potentially more restrictive pre-testing requirements.  In addition, certain unvaccinated foreign national travelers will need to provide evidence of vaccination within 60 days of entering the U.S.  The CDC is expected to issue forthcoming guidance on these specific requirements.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. previously implemented restrictions for  certain foreign nationals traveling from  China, Iran, the U.K., Ireland, countries in the Schengen region, South Africa, Brazil, and India. Today, The Biden Administration issued an Executive Order that effectively rescinds the country-specific travel bans and replaces them with certain restrictions based on vaccination status. Fully vaccinated foreign nationals may enter the U.S. starting November 8, 2021, but will be subject to pre-arrival requirements such as negative COVID-19 testing.  Though the Order does not mention the exact pre-arrival requirements, the Biden administration has historically required all international air passengers to provide a negative COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours of departure or provide proof of recent COVID-19 recovery.  It is expected that this pre-testing requirement will continue for fully vaccinated, foreign national international air passengers.  Seyfarth previously discussed the COVID-19 pre-testing requirements here

Nonimmigrants who are not fully vaccinated may also enter the U.S. starting on this date, but must agree to more extensive measures, including obtaining a negative test prior to travel, taking necessary precautions on their flight to the U.S. (i.e., mask wearing), proving they will take a post-arrival test, and/or proving that they have arranged to self-quarantine/isolate.  While the CDC has not formally announced the exact pre-testing requirements for unvaccinated travelers, the Administration has previously stated that unvaccinated travelers will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departure.

In addition to these pre- and post-arrival requirements, nonimmigrants arriving to the U.S. via air travel who are not fully vaccinated can travel to the U.S. if they agree to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the U.S. (or another timeframe as determined by the CDC) or as soon as medically appropriate as determined by the CDC.  Foreign nationals must also provide proof of having arranged to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 after arriving in the U.S. The Order provides certain exceptions to this requirement if the foreign national:

  • stays in the U.S. for a sufficiently brief period;
  • is of an inappropriate age;
  • is a prior or current participation in a COVID-19 vaccination trial;
  • is a medically contraindicated individual;
  • has participated or is participating in certain clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination;
  • has received a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the home country and is a certain ambassadors or foreign government representatives or if the CDC otherwise does not otherwise warrant vaccination for the individual.

The Order exempts certain individuals from these vaccination entry restrictions, including whether the individual’s age makes it inappropriate to receive a vaccine, the person is/was in a clinical trial, and humanitarian and emergency exemptions which will be determined by the CDC Director.  The CDC will also further exempt certain medically contraindicated individuals; foreign nationals entering based on emergency/humanitarian reasons; citizens of countries with limited availability of vaccinations (B-1/2 entrants are excepted from this group); members of the Armed Forces (or spouse or child); C-1 and D crew members; and individuals whose entry would be in the national interest.

The Order is effective on 12:01 a.m. EST on November 8, 2021.  Flights departing before this time must comply with current restrictions.  The Order will remain in effect until terminated by the President.

Seyfarth Shaw will issue subsequent alerts as the situation continues to develop.  Should you have any questions, please e-mail the author directly or alert your Seyfarth Shaw contact.