Traveling to the US post-ban – what to expect?
Recent changes in US travel rules mean there is no longer a ban on UK travelers visiting or traveling to the US.
With most foreign nationals now free to plan to travel to the US, it’s important to remember that travel rules and regulations have not returned to pre-pandemic status.
As the pandemic could well bring new challenges over the winter, travelers advised to ensure they fully understand and comply with the relevant and up to date rules to avoid issues or disappointment with travel plans.
In this guide, we summarise the key changes affecting travelers to the US.
New regional travel ban from November 26, 2021
With specific exceptions, the latest Presidential Proclamation suspends entry into the US of foreign nationals who have been physically present within the following countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the US:
- South Africa
COVID vaccination requirement
Foreign nationals not subject to the latest Proclamation who are traveling to the US by air must be fully vaccinated against COVID, with the last dose at least two weeks before the date of travel or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days.
Approved vaccines include FDA-approved or authorized and World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines, for example Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca among others.
To travel, you will be required to show documented evidence of your vaccination status to the airline before you board the aircraft. The document must contain the following:
- Biographical information that matches the foreign national’s travel documents
- Name of official source issuing the record (e.g. public health agency, authorized vaccine provider)
- Vaccine manufacturer
- Date(s) of vaccination
Exemptions to vaccination requirement
The vaccination requirement does not apply to the following:
- Children under the age of 18.
- Those who are advised not to take the vaccine for medical reasons
- Those issued a humanitarian or emergency exception and can show a letter in support from the US government
- Certain participants in COVID clinical trials
- Specific COVID-19 clinical trial participants
- Foreign nationals from countries with low-vaccine availability, as specified by the CDC, who are traveling to the US with a valid non-tourist US visa
- Members of the US Armed Forces, their spouses or children under 18
- National interest travelers (note this is considerably narrower criteria than under the previous travel ban), as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Transportation, or Secretary of Homeland Security
- US lawful permanent residents or those traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa
- Certain aircrew members, and sea crew members traveling with a C-1 or D nonimmigrant visa
Those who are exempted from the vaccination requirement will still have to comply with public health rules applicable to pre and post-departure testing and quarantine. In most cases, they will have to take a COVID test within one day of the intended departure date, compared with three days pre-departure for fully vaccinated travelers.
Those who are exempted and intend to stay in the US for longer than 60 days may in most cases have to confirm that they will follow the relevant US public health requirements, such as being vaccinated while in the US.
Negative COVID test
All vaccinated travelers, including US citizens and Green Card holders, will also need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of travel departure.
Unvaccinated US Citizens and Green Card holders will need to provide a negative test taken within one day of traveling.
Children between the ages of 2 – 17 have to take a pre-departure COVID test. The rules of the test depend on who the child is traveling with. If they are accompanied by an adult who is fully vaccianted, the unvaccinated child has to take a test 3 days before the date of departure.
If travelling with unvaccinated adults or alone, the child has to take a test within one day of departure.
All airlines are now required to provide passegner contact information on demand to the CDC to allow for tracing and follow-up communications with travelers arriving into the US who have potentially been exposed to the virus or are potentially carrying the virus.
Check your permission & documentation
Avoid ussues at the border by checking you have permimssion to travel and that all of your travel documents are valid and up to date. For example, if you already have ESTA authorization, check it is still valid, and check that your passport is also valid.
Land border crossing
Under the latest rules, vaccinated individuals are permitted to cross the land borders into the US from Canada and Mexico, with no requirement for testing.
Unvaccinated individuals are only permitted to cross these borders for “essential” purposes only, such as work and business travel. These rules are expected to change again, with vaccination a mandatory requirements for essential and non-essential yravel across the US land borders.
Processing delays and limited appoontment availability continue to plague visa applications. Applicants who require a visa to travel to the US are advised to check current processing times for their visa classification. With changing pandemic conditions over winter, we may also see further delays or interview cancellations in response to new public health restrictions.
Any NIE waivers previously granted prior to the end of the ban are now voided. Travellers must instead now comply with the above requirements.
If you are planning to travel to the US and are unsure about the latest rules or whether you need a visa, or want guidance on the latest in US visa processing, speak to our US immigration specialists.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.