The United States of America has announced that it plans to reopen its borders to visitors providing they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
All international travelers with a US ESTA or valid visa will be able to enter the States from early November 2021.
They will be required to show proof of full vaccination to board a flight to the country. Passengers must also take a COVID-19 test in the 3 days before departure.
The US has maintained a number of coronavirus travel restrictions throughout the pandemic. Non-essential travel from 33 countries has been banned for over 18 months.
The Biden administration has been praised by leaders from many of these nations for its decision to lift the travel bans. The move has also been hailed by those in the travel and tourism industries, as it is expected to bring a much-needed boost to these sectors.
How Will Entry Requirements for the US Change?
Currently, individuals who have spent time in certain countries in the past 14 days cannot travel to the States (with certain exceptions).
These blacklisted nations include the countries that make up the European Union (EU) and Schengen Area, as well as others like China, Iran, South Africa, and the UK.
This will change with the new vaccination regulation. Travelers with a certificate proving they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to enter the United States regardless of which countries they have recently been in.
The COVID-19 regulations for travelers will be as follows:
- Proof of full vaccination
- Negative test result from the previous 3 days
- Wearing a mask
- Contact tracing after arriving in the US
Fully vaccinated travelers will not have to quarantine on arrival.
The US visa policy has changed very little due to COVID-19 and visitors will still need either an ESTA or B1/B2 visa, depending on their nationality.
Meanwhile, land border restrictions will remain in place until further notice.
Vaccinations Are the Key to Reopening Travel to the US
The United States is the latest country to reopen international travel on the condition that passengers are vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines appear to be working effectively and are seen as a good measure to reduce the spread of the virus.
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients gave the following statement:
“This vaccination requirement deploys the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of the virus. Vaccines continue to show that they’re highly effective, including against the delta variant, and the new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
According to Zients, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will draw up a list of accepted COVID-19 vaccines before the travel ban is lifted in November.
Contact Tracing for Visitors to the US
In addition to the vaccination requirement, new arrivals in the States will have to undergo contact tracing.
To this end, passengers will be required to submit their contact information, including a phone number and email address.
The CDC and US public health officials will use these details to get in touch with travelers during their stay in America if it comes to their attention that they have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19.
For example, if one passenger on a flight to the States is diagnosed with the virus, all other travelers on that flight will be contacted so that they can take the appropriate steps (quarantine and/or testing).
US Decision to Re-open Travel Welcomed
The US government’s decision to re-open its borders has been widely praised.
The entry bans may have helped to contain the pandemic, but have had serious consequences for some. Many families have been separated for over a year. The US tourism industry suffered a crippling $500 billion loss in 2020.
Many in the travel sector have lauded the move. Roger Dow, the president of the US Travel Association said:
“The US Travel Association applauds the Biden administration’s announcement of a road map to reopen air travel to vaccinated individuals from around the world, which will help revive the American economy and protect public health:”
European Union Ambassador to the US Stavros Lambrinidis and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson were among those to publicly praise the decision, citing the advantages to business, trade, and families, who would be able to reunite.
The decision to make entry conditional on vaccination has had some critics. The argument is that unvaccinated individuals will essentially be barred from entering the US — including from countries that were not previously on the list of entry bans.
However, it is clear that the reopening of travel to the States will come as an economic boost and a welcome decision for many people.