Restrictions lifted for tourists from November 8 as travel rules ease
So what are the new rules for traveling to the US?
Who can travel to the US?
Whether non-citizen, non-resident or non-immigrant, as long as you are fully vaccinated, you can travel to the US by land, sea or air. US citizens could previously return, but this is the first full reopening to tourists since the start of the pandemic.
Travelers are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose of the vaccine (or two weeks after the administration of an accepted single-dose shot).
Do I need a PCR test to enter the US?
Yes. Regardless of vaccination status, all travelers aged two and up must produce a negative test or proof of recent recovery from the virus before boarding a flight to the US.
Fully vaccinated passengers must test negative within three days of departure and non-vaccinated travelers within one, while those recently recovered from Covid-19 must present a positive test taken within 90 days of departure. Both antigen and PCR tests are accepted.
If you’re arriving by land or sea, you don’t have to show a negative test, but you will still need proof of vaccination.
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What documents do I need?
There are three forms of documentation that are acceptable: verifiable digital or paper records (a vaccination certificate or digital pass with a QR code), non-verifiable paper records (a printout of your vaccination certificate or card), and non-verifiable digital records (photos of vaccination certificates or cards, downloaded vaccine records, vaccine apps without QR codes).
All Covid-19 documentation must have identifiers such as full name and date of birth that match your travel documents, as well as the dates of vaccination and the names of both the vaccine provider and manufacturer.
What vaccines does the US accept?
All vaccines that are FDA authorized/approved or listed for emergency use by WHO will meet the criteria for travel to the US. These are Janssen/J&J, Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, Sinopharm and Sinovac. So-called “mix-and-match” vaccines (a combination of any two of the above) are acceptable, as long as they were administered at least 17 days apart.
What about children? Are they exempt?
Due to inconsistent availability and timings of vaccinations for young people across the world, yes. However, travelers between the ages of two and 17 will still have to produce a negative PCR test as mentioned above.
Can I travel to the US if I’m not vaccinated?
No. With very limited exceptions, all foreign nationals must be vaccinated or they will not be allowed to board their flight.
US borders opening greeted with cautious enthusiasm
The new rules have been welcomed by the thousands of people with family in the US who had been kept apart for virtually the entire pandemic. Many European nations also welcomed the news, with the previous scattergun approach provoking anger and bafflement in equal measure.
White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said that airlines would have to play their part, asking them to take more responsibility. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be issuing contact tracing orders to airlines, requiring them to collect information from inbound US travelers, including a phone number and email address. This means airlines will be able to keep in touch with passengers for up to 30 days, warning them of potential exposure were it to come to light.
Unvaccinated Americans will be subject to stricter measures, including a test within one day of departure and an additional test when they return.
From frustration to cooperation
As travel in Europe has been opening up, many European governments had been left frustrated at the intransigence of the US leadership. As European countries’ vaccination rates increased, the frustration grew, as citizens from some nations with higher Covid rates were still permitted entry to the US.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the announcement “a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again.” Germany’s U.S. ambassador, Emily Haber, said on Twitter it was “hugely important to promote people-to-people contacts and transatlantic business.”
When Europe opened its borders in June, a lack of reciprocation was said to have driven the move to reverse the decision a month later. This new relaxation of travel rules is being welcomed as a step towards mending relationships between the US and, particularly, countries in the Schengen Area and the United Kingdom.
The timing of the announcement seems especially emotive since Thanksgiving in the US comes in a couple of weeks. As mentioned, many families and friends will be seeing each other for the first time in maybe two years, so there is expected to be a huge surge in bookings and travel leading up to it.
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