On Monday, the White House announced that in November it would lift the ban on most travelers from the European Union, China, Iran, South Africa, Brazil and India, provided they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test.
The new rules have been widely celebrated by many countries whose citizens have been barred from entering the United States directly – unless they endure inconvenient and often costly maneuvers.
This will, for example, end one of the strangest pandemic workarounds that have arisen: travelers from banned countries spending two weeks in an intermediary country – often Mexico or the Dominican Republic – and then getting a negative coronavirus test before flying to the United States. (Travelers did not have to quarantine themselves when visiting this other country, just having spent 14 days before entering a destination that was not on the no-go list has left them given travel privileges.)
Over the past six months, Fabienne Walther, 28, from Switzerland, has helped around 20 Europeans enter the United States via Mexico. Some have rented a room in his temporary home in Playa del Carmen. In other cases, she simply offered moral support and advice on where to eat.
“The whole trip through Mexico is a joke,” she said, given that contracting the coronavirus is actually riskier in the Cancun area than in the hometowns of many of the travelers she has helped.
Soon, Mexico’s workaround will no longer be necessary. But the new policy, which applies to anyone traveling overseas by air, has raised many questions. Many details still need to be worked out, but here’s a look at what is currently known about how the new policy will affect entry into the United States.
How do the new rules affect people in banned countries?
In the past 18 months, virtually all visitors from banned countries, including those who are members of the European Union and a handful of others, were banned from traveling directly to the United States. In early November, this policy will no longer apply, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator, announced on Monday. Individuals from these countries can travel to the United States, as they did before the pandemic, provided they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of boarding a flight. No quarantine will be required.
The CDC will also issue an order directing airlines to collect phone numbers and email addresses of travelers for a new contact tracing system. Further details of the contact tracing system have not yet been described.
Unvaccinated individuals who are not U.S. citizens will not be permitted to enter the United States.
What day in November do the rules take effect?
The Biden administration has yet to say when in November the new rules will be in place.
What does fully vaccinated mean? What vaccines will be accepted?
A spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement the agency was still in the “regulatory process” but said people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of a vaccine. Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after a single dose vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as AstraZeneca and Oxford, will also be valid, the CDC said.
How do the new rules affect people from countries that were not on the banned list?
The new policy applies to all who are not U.S. citizens, including people from Japan, Singapore, Mexico, and many other countries whose citizens may have traveled to the United States throughout the pandemic. . While vaccination status does not currently affect whether or not these people enter the United States, as of November, only fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed.
Already, these people must present proof of a negative coronavirus test carried out within three days of boarding a flight. This requirement will remain.
The policy applies to all “foreign nationals,” which means long-term residents of the United States who are not United States citizens could not leave the country and then re-enter unless they are fully immunized.
What about American citizens?
The vaccination stipulation does not apply to US citizens. But the new policy requires Americans to provide proof of a negative result from a test taken within one day of their flight back to the United States, and to retest after landing.
What about children and others who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons?
Most countries that currently require vaccination for entry make exceptions for children too young to be vaccinated. It seems likely that the United States will do the same, but the White House declined to comment on the details of that policy. It is not yet clear what other exceptions will be made.
What about people from Canada and Mexico? If travelers cross the land border, do they need to be vaccinated?
People coming from Canada and Mexico will face the same restrictions as people coming from other countries: they must be fully vaccinated, get a negative coronavirus test, and provide personal information for contact tracing. Currently, the land borders with Canada and Mexico are closed for all but essential travel, a policy that is expected to remain in place at least until October 21.
The new policy for international visitors only applies to people boarding a plane, according to Mr. Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator. Therefore, it is possible that an unvaccinated person could still enter the United States by land if the reason for their trip was considered essential. The definition of “essential” offered by the United States Embassy and Consulates in Canada includes “work and education, support for critical infrastructure, economic services and supply chains, health, medical care. immediate and safety and security ”.
At Monday’s press conference, Zients declined to comment on the future of land border restrictions after October 21, when the current policy expires.
What restrictions on entry to the United States will remain in November?
For people in many parts of the world – even before the pandemic – accessing the United States was not easy. One of the reasons the travel ban had such a profound impact is that it applied to many countries whose citizens could traditionally avoid US visa requirements and have the easiest time to enter.
The new policy does not rewrite who can enter the United States without a visa, nor does it rewrite the consequences of violating visa rules, such as staying in the country longer than expected.
But this severely limits who can enter the United States. Alone four percent of the population in Africa is fully vaccinated; less than a third of residents are fully immunized in many parts of Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. In some cases, not getting the vaccine is a choice; in others, people simply do not have access to vaccines. Whatever their reasons, these people will no longer be able to travel to the United States.
Ceylan Yeginsu contributed reporting from Turkey.