Air and Land Rule Updates

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Previous COVID-19 travel ban rescinded as of November 8, 2021

On October 25, 2021, President Biden announced the suspension of COVID-19 travel bans from Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Previously, a waiver of the national interest exception was required. With this new announcement, the White House announced a universal vaccination requirement for all adult foreign national air travelers and authorized the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to introduce specific regulations. The White House announcement can be found here.

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The main provisions of the new restrictions on air travel

The National Interest Exception (NIE) waiver is no longer valid for travel: Any traveler with a valid NIE exemption from a US embassy or consulate can no longer use it to enter the United States as of November 8, 2021. This was overturned by the White House’s repeal of the country-specific travel ban. Instead, the new vaccination rules will apply to all air travelers to the United States from any country around the world.

General rule – it must be fully vaccinated: From November 8, most foreign air travelers to the US will be required to have a full vaccination and provide proof of vaccination status before boarding a flight to the US, and there will be only limited exceptions. See the US Department of State’s FAQ here.

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Acceptable Vaccines: It must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. It’s okay to combine accepted COVID-19 vaccines. It must have been 14 days since the last dose of the vaccine was received before boarding a flight to the United States

Proof of vaccination: The passenger must show the airline a paper or digital record issued by an official source at the time of boarding. The record must include the traveler’s name and date of birth, as well as the vaccine product and the date(s) of administration for all doses received by the traveler.

  • Children under 18: These travelers will be exempt from vaccination requirements. However, children between the ages of 2 and 17 are required to take a pre-departure test. If a child has not been fully vaccinated and travels with a fully vaccinated adult, he or she can show evidence of a negative viral test from a sample taken within three days prior to departure (consistent with the schedule for fully vaccinated adults). If an unvaccinated child is traveling alone or with an unvaccinated adult, they will need to show evidence of a negative viral test from a sample taken within one day of departure.

Exception for low-vaccination countries and foreign nationals arriving on a work visa: The CDC lists 50 countries (mainly in Africa and the Middle East) that have vaccination rates of 10% or less. For these countries, citizens with a work visa can enter the United States without vaccinations, but must submit negative test results one day before boarding the plane, agree to be quarantined for 7 days after arrival, and take another test 3 to 5 days after arrival. They must then be vaccinated within 60 days of arriving in the United States if they plan to stay in the country for 60 days or more. Tourists with a B-1 or B-2 visa in the United States from these countries will not be allowed without vaccination. See the full CDC guidelines here.

Other limited exceptions to vaccination requirements: Diplomats, children under the age of 18, those with medical contraindications to COVID-19 vaccines, humanitarian or emergency exceptions, air and sea crew members, and those whose admission would be in the national interest.

Religious/moral exception not available: There are no exceptions under the Presidential Proclamation and the CDC Order for religious reasons or other moral beliefs.

  • Number of days for required tests: The 3-day test before departure is actually 4 days – meaning a flight departing on Thursday requires a negative test result to be done on or after Monday. To take a one-day test before departure, this will require that you take the test on the day before the flight or on the day of the flight.

  • Self test: The self-test can be used if it meets the requirements of the application including real-time monitoring by the test manufacturer’s telehealth service that generates a test result that can be reviewed by the airline prior to boarding.

  • Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents: If not vaccinated, US citizens and permanent residents can still board the plane and enter the US but a negative test result must be submitted to the airline within 24 hours before boarding.

  • Arriving early at the airport due to the lengthy COVID-19 screening process: Airlines will be responsible for properly reviewing all immunization papers for each passenger prior to boarding the aircraft. This is expected to create longer queues and delays in the pre-boarding process.

CBP land border travel restrictions: Beginning November 8, travelers from Mexico and Canada who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including visiting friends and family or for tourism Through the land and cross border crossings. Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides evidence of vaccination.

Beginning in early January 2022, DHS will require all incoming foreign travelers transiting US territory or ferrying POE—whether it be for Basis Or for non-essential reasons – receiving a full vaccination for COVID-19 and providing proof of vaccination. This approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truck drivers, students and health care workers to get vaccinated. See: Secretary Mayorcas allows fully vaccinated travelers from Canada and Mexico to enter US at land borders and ferry crossings

  • General guidelines for monitoring travel document expiration dates: One should diligently keep an eye on all expiration dates including:

  • Passport Expiry – Ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay, otherwise US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may refuse entry or severely limit the period of stay.

  • ESTA Visa Waiver Registration Expiry or Visa Expiry Registration.

  • If entering on a work visa, the Petition Expiry Date (PED).

  • I-94 Expiration of Authorized Residence Permit issued by CBP at the port of entry. To obtain an I-94, visit the official website here.

Copyright © 2021, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.National Law Review, Volume XI, No. 306

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