OPEN APP
Home / Politics / Policy /  US to exempt certain foreign air travelers from Covid-19 vaccine rules

Children and those from countries with low supplies of Covid-19 vaccines will be exempt from new requirements that foreign nationals show proof of vaccination to fly to the U.S., the Biden administration said Monday.

The exceptions were outlined as the administration provided new details of its plans to reopen international travel in the midst of the pandemic, following pressure from European officials and major airlines. The administration in September said new vaccination requirements for foreign nationals would replace a series of limits on travel from Europe, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India.

The administration on Monday said the vaccination requirements for foreign airline travelers, which go into effect next month, will permit exceptions for children under 18, people in certain vaccine clinical trials, individuals with medical contraindications to the vaccines, and people who have a federal letter affirming they are traveling for emergency or humanitarian reasons.

Exceptions will also be made for people traveling on non-tourist visas from countries that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determine have low vaccine availability.

A senior administration official said people from countries found by the World Health Organization to have fully vaccinated less than 10% of their populations would qualify for that exemption, if they are traveling for a compelling reason. About 50 countries have yet to vaccinate 10% of their population, according to the WHO, most of them in Africa and the Middle East.

Individuals who are exempt will typically have to attest that they will comply with public health requirements that include, with some exceptions, a mandate that they be vaccinated in the U.S. if they plan to stay more than 60 days.

The U.S. has said the new vaccination requirements would replace travel bans that began in January 2020, when former President Donald Trump imposed restrictions on non-U.S. citizens from China. The air travel ban was expanded to other countries including Europe, Iran and Brazil, and later South Africa and India.

For people from countries that had been subject to bans, the new vaccination requirements will reopen travel for the first time in over a year and a half in some cases. The policy could also clamp down on travel from other countries that hadn’t previously been subject to many restrictions.

Under the change, foreign nationals seeking to fly to the U.S. will have to show proof of vaccination, as well as a negative test for Covid-19 taken within three days of departure. Digital certificates will be accepted. Children between the ages of 2 and 17 will be included in testing requirements for foreign travelers.

The vaccination requirements don’t apply to Americans returning from abroad, but some will be subject to tighter testing requirements as of early November. Unvaccinated Americans re-entering the country will have to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test within a day of travel, the administration said last month. Previously, all travelers were required to produce a negative viral test result within three days of travel to the U.S., and that time frame will remain in place for vaccinated Americans.

The Biden administration also plans to relax Covid-19 travel restrictions on land-border crossings from Canada and Mexico and will require foreign nationals taking those routes into the U.S. for nonessential reasons to show proof of vaccination beginning in November. The administration said additional details would come soon.

The new air-travel requirements rely on airlines for oversight and tracking of travelers. Under a mandate from the CDC, airlines flying into the U.S. will have to keep information on how to contact travelers and provide the data to the agency if needed.

Airlines must match the name and date of birth to confirm the passenger is the same person reflected on the proof of vaccination, and determine that the record was issued from an official source. They will also have to review the passengers’ information to be sure it meets the CDC’s definition for full vaccination.

Major airlines had resisted contact-tracing requirements in the first months of the pandemic, but over the ensuing months several have taken steps to collect more contact information from customers on a voluntary basis.

Airlines for months pushed to lift the bans on travel to the U.S., which choked off lucrative trans-Atlantic markets and hampered international business travel. Major carriers said bookings surged immediately after the White House announced its plans to replace the travel bans with a vaccine protocol last month.

Delta Air Lines Inc.’s bookings originating in Europe are six times higher in November and December than they were before the eased restrictions were announced, Delta President Glen Hauenstein said earlier this month. United Airlines Holdings Inc. said bookings from international agencies rose 35% compared with 2019 levels after the White House announcement.

The CDC has previously said that vaccines that have been authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization would meet the criteria for travel to the U.S. That would include the vaccines from Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson that are in use in the U.S.; the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine; and China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine hasn’t yet been authorized or approved by the FDA or WHO.

The CDC also said in guidance earlier this month it would accept mixed combinations of doses of two different vaccines for air travelers.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!

Close
×
Edit Profile
My ReadsRedeem a Gift CardLogout