COVID-19: CDC provides additional information on upcoming nonimmigrant air travel rules

29 Oct 21

UNITED STATES

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released additional information regarding the U.S.’s forthcoming changes to entry rules for air travel for nonimmigrants.

Beginning Nov. 8, most nonimmigrant foreign nationals will be required to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days before boarding a flight for the U.S. The current, country-based entry restrictions will be revoked on Nov. 8. President Joe Biden issued a Proclamation on the new rules on Monday, and the CDC subsequently provided more information regarding proof of vaccination, exceptions and contact tracing.

  • Proof of vaccination. The U.S. will accept electronic or hard-copy proof of vaccination, as detailed here. Travelers should check with their airline about whether an English-language version of the proof of vaccination is required.
    • The CDC had previously confirmed that for purposes of entering the country, the U.S. would accept COVID-19 vaccines that are approved or authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO). The full list is available here. In general, travelers will be considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after a single-dose vaccine or two weeks after their second dose of a two-dose vaccine or a “mix-and-match” combination of accepted vaccines.
  • Exceptions. Travelers from countries with limited vaccine availability designated by the CDC will be eligible for an exception from the vaccination requirement, though not for B-visa travel. There are also exceptions for children under the age of 18, humanitarian or emergency cases, individuals with medical contraindications, air crew, noncitizens whose entry is deemed in the national interest and a limited number of others. The full list is available here. Most exceptions will fall under the authority of the CDC, but the State Department and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will continue to have authority to grant exceptions based on national interest. The State Department and DHS have not yet provided guidance on what criteria they will apply or the process for requesting an exemption.
    • Unvaccinated nonimmigrant foreign nationals traveling on the basis of an exception will generally be subject to additional health protocols, including (1) providing a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day (rather than three days) before boarding a flight for the U.S. and (2) providing proof of arrangements to become fully vaccinated within 60 days of arriving in the U.S.
  • Contact Tracing. Passengers will be required to provide information to their airline for purposes of contact tracing, including: their name (as it appears on their passport), address while in the U.S., primary contact phone number, secondary or emergency contact phone number and email address. Passengers will be required to provide this information within 72 hours before their flight’s departure for the U.S.

Additional Information: The new entry rules apply only to nonimmigrant air travel to the U.S. and do not affect visa issuance. This means the State Department will be able to issue visas regardless of an applicant’s vaccination status or their eligibility for an exception, but subsequent travel to the U.S. will be governed by the new rules starting Nov. 8. In its announcement on the new rules, the State Department emphasized that the rescission of the current bans “does not necessarily mean that your local U.S. embassy or consulate is able to immediately schedule all affected applicants for visa interviews” and advised applicants to check their individual embassy or consulate’s website for information on what services they are offering and instructions on how to apply for a nonimmigrant visa.

The U.S. is also changing land entry rules on Nov. 8. Individuals entering the U.S. by land will need to show proof of vaccination if traveling for “nonessential” purposes. Unvaccinated travelers will be able to enter the country only if they can show that their travel is “essential.” Additional information is expected soon.

BAL Analysis: Current entry restrictions will remain in place until Nov. 8. BAL attorneys will be speaking at a webinar on “Lifting the Travel Bans, Holiday Travel & Planning: What to Expect in the Coming Months” on Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. CT. Find details and register here. Employers and employees should continue to consult their BAL professional before planning any international travel.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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