COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements for Travel to the U.S. - Are Your Employees Ready?
November 8, 2021
By Benjamin A. Nucci and Rebecca A. Winterscheidt
Effective 12:01 a.m. today, took effect. That Proclamation rescinds the pandemic geographic travel bans and instead implements certain COVID-19 vaccine requirements for all international air travelers to the U.S.
The Proclamation governs the entry into the United States of nonimmigrants traveling to the United States by air. With limited exceptions, it suspends entry of noncitizen nonimmigrants who are not vaccinated and requires those individuals seeking an exception to follow health and safety requirements determined by the Director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Some important pieces to note:
- The travel bans that restricted travel for those from China (PP 9984), Iran (PP 9992), the Schengen Area, UK and Ireland, Brazil, South Africa (PP 10143), and India (PP 10199) are now lifted.
- The Proclamation suspends the entry into the United States by certain individuals via air travel. Separately, the Department of Homeland Security released for those entering at land and ferry border crossings.
- Per a corresponding , travelers will be required to provide proof of vaccination to airlines boarding a plane to the United States, who will in turn:
- Match the name and date of birth to the information on the vaccination documentation.
- Determine that the record was, in fact, issued by an official source (public health agency, government agency, or authorized vaccine provider) within the country it was given.
- Review the information to determine if the vaccination meets the CDC's definition of full vaccination, including being approved or authorized by the FDA or included on the of emergency use vaccines. They are:
- Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (Single Dose)
- In its, the CDC has identified three documentation categories considered to be acceptable proof of COVID-19 vaccination:
- Verifiable digital or paper records: This includes, but is not limited to, examples such asvaccination certificates or digital passes accessible via QR code (such as the UK NHS COVID Passand the European Union Digital COVID Certificate).
- Non-verifiable paper records: A paper vaccination record or a COVID-19 vaccination certificateissued by a national or subnational level or by an authorized vaccine provide (such as the CDCvaccination card).
- Non-verifiable digital records: Digital photos of vaccination card or record, or a downloaded recordor vaccination certificate from an official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency, orother authorized vaccine provider), or a record shown on a mobile phone app without a QR code.
- The Proclamation does not apply to United States citizens, lawful permanent residents, or those traveling on immigrant visas. However, applying for an immigrant visa abroad or who seek to adjust status from within the United States are required to receive, among other vaccinations, an authorized COVID-19 vaccination as of October 1, 2021.
- The Proclamation also provides several exceptions to the vaccine requirement. They include:
- Children under the age of 18.
- Those that participated in certain clinical trials for COVID-19.
- Those for whom approved COVID-19 vaccination is medically contraindicated.
- Those granted humanitarian or emergency exceptions by the Director of the CDC in limited circumstances for individuals who need to travel to the U.S. for their health and safety and are unable to complete the vaccine requirement before doing so.
- Citizens of a country with less than 10% of the population vaccinated with any available COVID-19 vaccine, who seek to enter the United States pursuant to a nonimmigrant visa, except for a B-1/B-2 visa.
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses.
- Those whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretaries of State, Transportation, Homeland Security, or their designees.
- While the categories of persons above are excepted from the vaccination requirement, these individuals will be subject to more rigorous testing requirements as well as a requirement that they be vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States (with limited exceptions).
- There are no exceptions to the vaccine requirement for religious reasons or other moral convictions under the Presidential Proclamation.
- Per , all air passengers (including American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals traveling to the United States on immigrant or nonimmigrant visas) are required to present a negative COVID-19 viral test result, within a time period based on their vaccination status or present documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days.
- Fully vaccinated: No more than three days.
- Not fully vaccinated: No more than one day.
- Children between the ages of 2 and 17 will be required to take a pre-departure test.
Employers should consider planning any international travel well in advance to avoid potential delays. Moreover, employers may want to advise employees to seek prompt assistance early to navigate any administrative hurdles. For example, airlines and other aircraft operators must be able to confirm proof of vaccination. If documents are in a language other than English, the airline may require a translation before accepting the document. Lastly, employers should routinely review government publications to ensure they have the latest guidance on the topic.
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