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U.S. Reopens Borders to Vaccinated Travelers

Murali Bashyam

The U.S. has officially opened its borders to international travelers after barring travelers from 33 countries, including China, India, South Africa, Iran, Brazil, and most of Europe, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Land travel restrictions also were in place on the U.S.-Canadian and Mexican borders, in that travel was restricted to “essential travel.” These restrictions have been in place for more than 18 months. Travel restrictions to China occurred on January 31, 2020, and further restrictions on noncitizens followed in March 2020.

U.S. Travel Vaccination Policy in Place

Under the new American vaccination travel policy, foreign nationals must be fully vaccinated against COVID. However, there are some exceptions for children under the age of 18 and those who are medically unable to be vaccinated. Travelers aged two or older must also show negative rapid or PCR COVID test results from within the immediate three days before traveling. If the travelers are unvaccinated, they must show proof of negative COVID test results taken within one day of traveling.

Some limited exceptions to the U.S. vaccination and testing policy exist for people from countries who have little access to vaccines and face medical emergencies, armed forces members or their immediate families, diplomats, ship and airline crews, and a few others.

International travelers can show proof of any vaccinations approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), not just those that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved for Americans. However, the U.S. will not accept proof of vaccinations only approved by the WHO for emergency use, such as the Russian Sputnik V. U.S. officials are accepting vaccination certificates from other countries, such as the NHS Covid Pass and equivalents from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Those individuals crossing Canadian or Mexican borders by land must produce proof of vaccination but no test. Mexican officials encouraged Mexican nationals to get vaccination certificates by registering their vaccinations in a database with the Health Ministry. Still, Mexicans also can use vaccination slips from doctors as proof of vaccination when crossing the border.

International travelers are recommended to take a second COVID test three to five days after arriving in the U.S. Still, they are not required to do so or submit proof of a second test taken during that timeframe.

Flights and Hotel Bookings Dramatically Increase

Flight and hotel bookings increased by hundreds of percentage points from their previous levels when the Biden administration first announced that it planned to reopen international borders. As a result, the tourist industry hopes to begin making up the millions of dollars in lost revenue and jobs that were eliminated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the first few days of opened international borders, lines were hours long at border crossings, and airports were packed with visitors reuniting with family members after over 18 months of separation. Tourists also were planning fun-filled visits to many popular tourist destinations, such as New York City and Disney theme parks.

We Are Here to Help You with All Your Immigration Law Needs

The focus of the new Guidelines on prosecutorial discretion may open up more opportunities to allow noncitizens to avoid apprehension and removal under certain circumstances. We are happy to discuss your unique situation and determine whether these new Guidelines may be helpful in your immigration case.

The attorneys and staff of Bashyam Global focus on providing legal assistance to individuals and businesses with immigration matters. As immigration law’s landscape continues to evolve rapidly, we pride ourselves on keeping up to date with regulation and policy changes as they occur. Together, we can work toward getting the legal relief that you are seeking. Contact our offices today at (919) 833-0840 and schedule an appointment to speak with us about your case.