International Travelers Can Enter US With Vaccination Proof, Negative Test

Carolyn Crist

November 08, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Starting Monday, international travelers can enter the US if they show proof of full vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within 3 days of travel, according the latest CDC guidelines.

The new update opens access to travelers from 33 countries that have been prohibited from traveling directly to the US since the pandemic began. The Biden administration's rules apply to air travel and land borders with Canada and Mexico.

Unvaccinated Americans and children under age 18 years are exempt from the vaccination requirement but must take a test within 24 hours of travel.

The change in restrictions has spurred travelers to book flights and meet with loved ones they haven't seen in nearly 2 years, according to The New York Times. The new policies also eliminate the need for workarounds, such as travelers spending 2 weeks in another country and obtaining a negative test before flying to the US.

For the past 18 months, nearly all visitors from the banned countries have been prohibited from traveling directly to the US, the newspaper reported. Now their travel status will depend on their vaccination status.

A negative COVID-19 test is required for those traveling by air but not for those crossing land borders, the newspaper reported. No quarantine will be required, regardless of how visitors enter.

The CDC has also directed airlines to collect travelers' contact information, such as phone numbers and email addresses, for a new contact tracing system. But the details of the contact tracing system haven't yet been outlined, according to the Times.

The US will accept vaccines authorized by US regulators or listed for emergency use by the WHO, the newspaper reported. This includes Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer, two versions of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Sinopharm, and Sinovac. Russia's Sputnik V isn't on the list.

The policy applies to all "foreign nationals," which includes long-term residents of the US who are not American citizens, per the Times. They won't be able to leave the country and then return unless fully vaccinated.

People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine. "Mix and match" vaccines will be accepted.

The new policy opens access to international travelers, but it still limits entry into the US, the newspaper reported. Only 4% of the population in Africa is fully vaccinated, and less than a third of residents are fully vaccinated in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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