[COLUMN] Int’l travelers to US will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination

ON September 20, 2021, the Biden Administration announced that it is rescinding/canceling the Trump era COVID-19 travel bans, and, starting in November 2021, will instead require all international travelers to the U.S. to provide proof of vaccination before being allowed to board a flight to the U.S., as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 3 days of travel.

Under Trump, there were “geographic” COVID-19 related travel bans for individuals from certain countries where there were high incidents of Covid-19, such as China, Iran, the Schengen Area (Europe), U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India. Instead of focusing on countries, the new policy focuses on individuals, regardless of the country they travel from. Put another way, the travel ban is being lifted for fully vaccinated individuals.

Under the new policy, all international travelers (visitors, immigrants, etc.) will have to prove that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a flight to the United States. The CDC will provide guidance on which vaccines will be accepted.

There will be exceptions to the vaccination requirement such as: children; COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants; and humanitarian exceptions for people traveling for an important reason and who lack access to vaccination in a timely manner. However, individuals who are exempted from the vaccine requirement may be required to be vaccinated upon arrival.

Interestingly, when asked about whether these vaccination requirements will apply to those seeking to enter the U.S. at the border, as opposed to those arriving by plane, the White House responded, “We do not have any updates to the land border policies at this time.” When asked if requiring vaccination would be highly inequitable or unfair, especially for countries with low vaccine access, the White House responded that, “We believe that the vast majority of people who can travel internationally to the U.S. will be able to access a vaccine.” In other words, they expect or assume that people who travel to the U.S. have enough money and wherewithal to get vaccinated, if they were able to qualify for a visitor visa.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of changes, disruption, and delays in immigration. Travel bans were merely one part of the disruption and delays, but there are other areas, such as intending immigrants being scheduled for their interviews, green card holders stuck or trapped outside the U.S., visitors in the U.S. trapped and unable to return to their home country, etc.

We will continue to monitor developments and keep you updated.  Also, I would invite you to subscribe to my YouTube channel, US Immigration TV, where I am also posting updates on immigration news and developments.

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Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 40 years and is licensed, and an active member of the State Bars of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different, and results may depend on the facts of the particular case. The information and opinions contained herein (including testimonials, “Success Stories,” endorsements and re-enactments) are of a general nature, and are not intended to apply to any particular case, and do not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.

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