In September, the White House announced that it would lift all of the geographic-based travel bans as of November 8, 2021. As we previously reported, the President imposed numerous geographically based travel bans due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, barring anyone who was physically present in China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India in the prior 14 days from traveling directly to the United States.

On October 25, 2021, President Biden released “A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-⁠19 Pandemic,” officially revoking country-specific suspensions and limitations on entry passed throughout 2020 and 2021, provided that the traveler is able to present proof that he or she is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Proclamation is applicable only to foreign nationals; U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not required to prove that they are vaccinated in order to return from travel abroad.

The Proclamation makes the director of the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) responsible for its implementation, “consistent with the CDC’s independent public health judgment,” including defining acceptable COVID-19 vaccines, defining whether an individual is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and specifying acceptable methods of proving that one is fully vaccinated, among other matters.

On the same day, the CDC issued technical instructions for implementation of the Proclamation. According to the guidance, proof of the following vaccines is acceptable for admission to the United States: Janssen/ J&J, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm, or Sinovac. An individual is not considered fully vaccinated until 14 days have passed since the traveler received one dose of an accepted single-dose series of the vaccine or since the person’s second dose in a two-dose series of an accepted vaccine. The CDC guidance also indicates that a “mix-and-match” combination of approved COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart is also acceptable.

The Proclamation and technical guidance indicate that the following classes of individuals are not subject to the vaccine requirement:

  • Crew members of an airline or other aircraft operators and/or sea crew members, subject to certain conditions.
  • Foreign government officials, government travelers, and/or members of NATO.
  • Any noncitizen for whom, given their age, requiring a vaccination would be inappropriate, as determined by the CDC.
    • According to the CDC technical instructions, children under the age of 18 are not required to show proof of vaccination in order to enter the United States
  • Persons with medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
    • According to the CDC technical instructions, anyone claiming this exception must carry a signed letter from a licensed physician documenting a medical contraindication. The letter must be signed and dated on official letterhead containing the name, address, and phone number of the licensed physician who signed the letter, must name the COVID-19 vaccine product, and the medical contraindication(s).
    • Objections to vaccination based on religious or moral convictions do not qualify for an exception under the Proclamation.
  • Certain participants in COVID-19 vaccine trials.
  • Any noncitizen granted an exception by the CDC Director for humanitarian or emergency reasons. This must be granted by U.S. Consulate abroad.
  • Applicants for asylum
  • Any noncitizen who is a citizen of a country where the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine is limited, as determined by the CDC (but this exception does not apply to anyone entering the U.S. as a B-1 or B-2 visitor.)
    • According to the CDC technical instructions, there are currently 50 countries that have less than 10 % vaccination coverage with any vaccine. This list will be updated every 90 days but currently includes the following countries:
Algeria EgyptLibya
Angola EthiopiaMadagascar
Burkina FasoMyanmar
Central African RepublicNicaragua
Cote d’IvoirePapua New Guinea
Democratic Republic of the CongoSenegal
DjiboutiSierra Leone
EthiopiaSouth Sudan
GambiaSyrian Arab Republic
HaitiUnited Republic of Tanzania

The Proclamation will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. EST on November 8, 2021.

In addition to carrying proof of vaccination, all air passengers ages 2 or older still must show a negative result of a COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States. 

The CDC guidance on the vaccine requirement, and proof thereof, is subject to ongoing revision.

If you have questions about your particular case, contact the Harris Beach immigration team to discuss the options that may be available to you.

Our Immigration Law Practice Group includes immigration attorneys that work across New York State in our Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse offices. Our immigration lawyers focus on strategies – including immigrant visas for permanent U.S. resident status and temporary visas for foreign nationals – to ensure that companies are able to hire, transfer, and retain the brightest and best non-U.S. talent.