U.S. Announces New Rules for International Travellers Arriving by Air

Authors: Scott Bell, Jessica Jensen, Katie Newman

On October 25, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) amended the January 25, 2021, Order titled, “Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States.

This amendment outlines that effective November 8, 2021, foreign travellers entering the U.S. must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with limited exceptions. In addition, all travellers need to show a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding an aircraft to the United States.

What does the new policy entail?

The new policy will focus on a vaccination-based system rather than a broader country-based restriction system. Restrictions in place since early 2020 that have barred most non-U.S. citizens from travelling to the United States from places including China, India, South Africa, Brazil and much of Europe will also expire on November 8, 2021.

Under the new policy, fully vaccinated travellers travelling into the U.S. will need to show a negative COVID-19 viral test result taken no more than three days prior to departure. Unvaccinated travellers will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test taken no more than one day prior to departure.

Travellers who have recently recovered from COVID-19 may show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e. positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).

Children under 18 will not be required to be fully vaccinated, given the inconsistency in the global rollout of shots for their age cohort. Children aged two and over will be subjected to the same COVID-19 testing policy as their parent or guardian.

All vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration or World Health Organization, including mixing and matching of approved vaccinations will be permitted.

Who is exempt from the new policy?

There are limited exemptions from the vaccination requirement, including those with medical reasons for not getting vaccinated, children, and certain individuals who participated in COVID-19 clinical trials.

Unvaccinated residents of countries with vaccination rates below 10 per cent of adults, and those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons may be admitted to the U.S. with a government letter authorizing travel for pressing, non-tourism purposes.

The immigration group at MLT Aikins can provide guidance and assistance in ensuring that all prospective travellers are fully aware of their ability to travel and whether any exemptions apply.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.