Proof of Full COVID Vaccination Required to Enter the US
On October 25, 2021, President Biden issued A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic which changes COVID-related travel restrictions for nonimmigrants entering the US. Effective 12:01am EST on November 8, 2021, the geographic travel ban restrictions will be replaced with a requirement for all nonimmigrants traveling to the US by air from any part of the world, establish that they are fully vaccinated. All air travelers will also continue to be required to show results of a negative coronavirus test performed within 24 hours preceding their flight’s departure.
These restrictions apply to air travelers to the US and does not affect visa issuance. Therefore, it implies that international students and scholars who are not fully vaccinated should still initiate a visa application at a US Consular post and can be approved for a visa with the understanding that they will need to be fully vaccinated to board a plane and travel to the US.
Exceptions permitted by the Director of CDC articulated in the Presidential Proclamation include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Noncitizens for whom a COVID-19 vaccination is medically contraindicated
- Noncitizens for whom a COVID-19 vaccination exempt for humanitarian or emergency reasons
- Any noncitizen or group of noncitizens whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees
- Noncitizens for whom a COVID-19 vaccination is inappropriate based on age
- Citizens of a foreign country where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited so they can be vaccinated in the US within 60 days
In addition, the Proclamation provides a limited exception to the vaccination requirement to citizens of foreign countries where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited, provided they seek to enter the US pursuant to any nonimmigrant visa other than, a B-1 or B-2 visitor visa. The proclamation charges the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Director of the CDC, with maintaining a list of countries where vaccination availability is less than 10 percent of the country’s total population or countries otherwise determined by the Director of the CDC to qualify as countries where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited.
NOTE: According to CDC FAQs, there are no exceptions under the Presidential Proclamation for religious reasons or other moral convictions.
Acceptable Vaccines and the Meaning of Fully Vaccinated
The Proclamation charges the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Director of the CDC, with implementing the proclamation as it applies to the public health components of the proclamation which including defining acceptable COVID-19 vaccines or combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines, and medical contraindications.
The CDC is also charged with defining whether an individual is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and for specifying acceptable methods of proving that an individual is fully vaccinated for purposes of this proclamation. In general, a fully vaccinated individual is defined as someone who completed vaccinations at least 2 weeks ago. See the CDC FAQs for specific details.
Entry to the US through land ports from Canada and Mexico (and all ferry, sea and land ports)
The Presidential Proclamation of October 25, 2021 applies only to air travel. However, on October 12, 2021, regarding entry through land POEs at the Canadian and Mexican borders, DHS announced that non-essential travelers who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation to enter the United States will resume in two phases over the next few months. First, on November 8, 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin allowing fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico or Canada to enter the US at land and ferry POEs for non-essential reasons. Second, beginning January 21, 2022, CBP will require that all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry POEs – whether for essential or non-essential reasons provided they have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation to enter the US. This will have the effect of partially keeping portions of the current restrictions (in place until January 21, 2022) that limit travel through the land ports of entry and ferry terminals along the United States-Canada and United States-Mexico borders to “essential travel,” which includes, but is not limited to, individuals travel to work and study in the US.
Exemptions to these restrictions in the Presidential Proclamation of October 25, 2021 includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents
- Diplomats, employees of international organizations, and similar
Links to Government Sources
- Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Releases Additional Detail for Implementing a Safer, More Stringent International Air Travel System
- CDC order updated October 25, 2021
- CDC webpage Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19
- CDC Combined Passenger Disclosure and Attestation that travelers will have to complete in addition to having the documentation to support the attestations
- CDC Global Contact Tracing Order 10-25-2021