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U.S. Government announces relaxed restrictions for vaccinated international travelers starting this November

On September 20, 2021, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients announced the U.S. will be lifting pandemic-related travel restrictions for select countries that were imposed at the beginning of last year. Specifically, the U.S. will re-open for air travelers from 33 countries including China, India, Brazil, and a majority of Europe if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This is a major change in position for the U.S. considering that just last week the Biden administration stated it was not the right time to lift any travel restrictions due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. 

The current travel restrictions bar entry into the U.S. for all noncitizens who were physically present in any of the countries identified in the four relevant presidential proclamations during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the U.S. Travel restrictions on non-U.S. citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China in January 2020 by former-President Donald Trump and then extended to dozens of other countries as the coronavirus continued to spread. 

In January 2021, Trump issued an order to lift travel restrictions on 27 European countries, but it was blocked by President Biden before it could take effect. President Biden then went on to add India and South Africa to the restricted travel list. On September 15, 2021– just five days before the White House announced the U.S. would be lifting travel restrictions— Zients stated on behalf of the Biden administration that it was not the right time to lift travel restrictions, citing the rise of the Delta variant as the rationale for continued constraints.  

So, what has changed in the last five days? No clear answer has been given. When asked about the government’s drastic change in position regarding the travel restrictions, Zients noted there has been an increase in global vaccinations and that the new individual-based travel policy will allow the U.S. “to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The U.S. is now set to re-open for air travelers from the currently restricted 33 countries to those who are fully vaccinated starting “early November.” Federal health authorities have yet to decide which vaccines will qualify under the new approach but explained that foreign nationals will need to present proof of vaccination before their travels and will not be required to quarantine upon arrival. Once implemented, the new COVID-19 vaccine requirements will apply to nearly all foreign nationals flying to the U.S., including those not subject to the prior restrictions.  

Our team here at Berardi Immigration Law will make sure to keep an eye out for more important updates!