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USA lifts travel bans. Here are the new rules

Military officials speak to travelers upon arrival at Terminal 4 of John F Kennedy International Airport in New York on December 22, 2020.

Kena Bettencourt | AFP | Getty Images

International arrivals and departures have been some of the sleepiest parts of US airports since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020.

That should change on Monday when the US lifts the pandemic travel restrictions that have prevented many foreign visitors since the beginning of last year, measures that have resulted in lower revenues in hotels, retail stores, restaurants and airlines.

The restrictions, pioneered by the Trump administration and then expanded to include other countries by President Joe Biden earlier this year, barred most visitors from the EU, UK, South Africa, India, Brazil and China from flying into the United States.

Opening the border to many foreign visitors comes with a new set of regulations, such as vaccination requirements.

Airlines are reporting a sharp increase in bookings in the United States and expect an immediate increase in the number of travelers, even before peak holiday periods.

United Airlines said it expects 50% more international arrivals on Monday, compared with a week earlier when it carried 20,000. Delta Air Lines said it expects many of its international flights on Monday to be full and in high demand over the next few weeks. Flight tracking website Hopper said searches for flights to the United States have more than quadrupled since the Biden administration announced the lifting of restrictions in September.

Airlines have increased the number of international flights, although the schedule is still lower than before the pandemic. United will meet 69% of its 2019 international schedule next month, up from 63% this month, and its transatlantic schedule will be restored 87% in December. American Airlines’ international throughput in November and December is expected to more than double from a year ago, down 28% from 2019.

Here’s what you need to know about international travel in the United States starting November 8:

Proof of vaccination

Under the new rules, non-citizens arriving will have to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before flying to the United States. This means that the second of the two-dose vaccine must be completed two weeks before departure. Documentation can be in the form of a paper certificate, a photograph of a document, or a digitized version. It will be reviewed by the airline staff.

Accepted vaccines are those that are approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, and vaccines listed for use by the World Health Organization: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

Covid tests

The US will also require proof of a negative Covid test result within the past three days for all vaccinated travelers. The country has required this from January for all arrivals, including US citizens.

If the traveler, including a US citizen, is not vaccinated, the Covid test must be taken within one day of departure.

The results of the rapid antigen test and PCR are accepted.

Minors and other vaccine benefits

The United States has identified a number of exceptions to the new rules. These include international travelers under the age of 18, as some countries have not yet allowed vaccines for children or have limited vaccine availability.

Foreign visitors over 2 years old traveling with vaccinated adults must show proof of a negative Covid test result within three days of departure. If they are traveling unaccompanied, they must show proof of passing the test within one day.

The United States also exempts visitors from 50 countries which have low vaccine availability and vaccination rates, including most of Africa, as well as Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq and Armenia.

Visitors who have not been medically vaccinated will need to present a letter from a healthcare professional to the airline. There are also limited exceptions for visitors who need to travel to the United States for humanitarian reasons or in an emergency that will require a letter from the State Department before leaving.

US citizens

US citizens are not required to show proof of vaccination before leaving. However, if they do not, they will have to show proof of a negative Covid test taken within one day, instead of three days for travelers with a Covid vaccination record.

Contact Tracking

All travelers bound for the United States will be required to provide airlines with contact information such as email address, telephone number and address in the event of an outbreak upon arrival.


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