Air Travel to the United States

Presidential Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021, Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-⁠19 Pandemic, effective November 8, 2021, revoked the four prior geographic travel ban restrictions that had limited entry from 33 specific countries, and replaced them with a global requirement that "noncitizens who are nonimmigrants" traveling to the United States by air from any part of the world establish that they are fully vaccinated, with some limited exceptions. The proclamation relies on INA 212(f)/8 USC 1182(f) as the statutory authority for the restrictions. That statute provides: "Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate."

A separate CDC order also requires all air travelers (regardless of citizenship) to show results of a negative coronavirus test taken one day preceding their flight's departure from a foreign country traveling to the United States (see details below).

"Noncitizens who are nonimmigrants" who are traveling by air will have to show both the negative COVID viral test and documentation that they are either fully vaccinated or are eligible for an exception to the vaccination requirement.

New Geographic COVID-19 Proclamation Restricts Entry from Southern Africa Regions. In response to concerns over the COVID-19 Omicron variant, a new Presidential Proclamation restricts entry to the United States by most noncitizens who have been in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, or Zimbabwe in the 14-day period before their entry or attempted entry to the United States, with limited exceptions. The proclamation is effective on November 29, 2021, and operates in addition to the November 8, 2021 vaccination requirement.

Entry to the United States through Land or Ferry Ports of Entry

In a separate but related announcement (see below), the controls on non-essential travel through land ports of entry on the Canadian and Mexican borders have also been modified.

Links to Government Sources

NAFSA will update this page with additional links to official White House and agency announcements when they become available.

White House

Department of State

CDC

Department of Homeland Security

Congressional Research Service (CRS)

Effective Dates

Presidential Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021 governs entry to the United States through air ports of entry. Starting November 8, 2021, all "noncitizens who are nonimmigrants" entering the United States through an air POE will have to show proof that they are fully vaccinated with an acceptable COVID vaccine. 

Proclamation 10294 is "effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on November 8, 2021." However, "This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on November 8, 2021."

All air travelers must also show that they obtained a negative result on a COVID viral test taken one day before their flight's departure to the United States (see below for details).

See the discussion below regarding a "two-phase" plan for implementing a vaccine requirement at land ports of entry.

Revocation of Geographic COVID-19 Proclamations

Presidential Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021 replaced the prior geographic travel ban restrictions with new air travel vaccination requirements, which are applicable not only to travel from one of the countries formerly subject to a geographic travel ban, but to travel to the United States by air by nonimmigrants from any part of the world.

Section 1 of Proclamation 10294 officially revokes all four geographic COVID-19 proclamations effective November 8, 2021, including:

  1. Proclamation 9984 of January 31, 2020 (China), which restricted the "entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the People's Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States," unless exempted or otherwise excepted.
  2. Proclamation 9992 of February 29, 2020 (Iran), which restricted the "entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States," unless exempted or otherwise excepted.
  3. Proclamation 10143 of January 25, 2021 which restricted entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, "of all aliens who were physically present within" South Africa, the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and Brazil, unless exempted or otherwise excepted.
  4. Proclamation of 10199 of April 30, 2021 (India), which restricted "the entry into the United States, as nonimmigrants, of noncitizens of the United States ("noncitizens") who were physically present within the Republic of India during the 14‑day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States" unless exempted or otherwise excepted.

Section 4(d) of Proclamation 10294 directs the Departments of State, Transportation, and Homeland Security to consider revising or revoking their respective agency's regulations, guidance documents, and policies that are inconsistent with the policy set forth in the proclamation:

"(d) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Transportation, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall review any regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions developed pursuant to Proclamations 9984, 9992, 10143, and 10199 and, as appropriate, shall consider revising or revoking these agency actions consistent with the policy set forth in this proclamation."

See NAFSA's page Archive: Geographic COVID-19 Proclamations Affecting Entry from Certain Countries for historical information on the four geographic COVID-19 proclamations.

However, a new geographic COVID-19 Proclamation now restricts entry from certain countries in Sourther Africa. In response to concerns over the COVID-19 Omicron variant, a new Presidential Proclamation restricts entry to the United States by most noncitizens who have been in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, or Zimbabwe in the 14-day period before their entry or attempted entry to the United States, with limited exceptions. The proclamation is effective on November 29, 2021, and operates in addition to the November 8, 2021 vaccination requirement. For details and updates, see NAFSA's page Geographic COVID-19 Entry Proclamations.

Who is Covered by the Presidential Proclamation of October 25, 2021

Presidential Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021 prohibits entry into the United States by air travel of "noncitizens who are nonimmigrants" unless they are fully vaccinated with an acceptable COVID19 vaccine.

Section 2 of the proclamation provides that the "entry into the United States by air travel of noncitizens who are nonimmigrants and who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is suspended and limited, except as provided in section 3 of this proclamation. This suspension and limitation on entry applies only to air travelers to the United States and does not affect visa issuance."

U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, U.S. lawful permanent residents (green card holders), and those entering on an immigrant visa are exempt from the Proclamation 10294 vaccination requirement, since it covers only "noncitizens who are nonimmigrants" traveling to the United States by air.

The language stating that the "suspension and limitation on entry applies only to air travelers to the United States and does not affect visa issuance" means that someone who is not fully vaccinated at the time of a visa application or interview could still be issued a visa by a U.S. consulate, although that individual would have to be fully vaccinated in order to board an aircraft destined for the United States or to be admitted to the United States.

Exemptions and Exceptions

Proclamation Section 3(b) contains a number of important exceptions for certain individuals who would otherwise be subject to the full vaccine requirement. Nonimmigrants who do not meet the definition of fully vaccinated but who are traveling by air to the United States under one of the Section 3(b) exceptions are referred to Excepted Covered Individuals in the CDC Order Implementing Proclamation on Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic. In general see CDC Technical Instructions: Procedures for Confirming Documentation of Excepted Covered Individuals Who Do Not Present Proof of Being Fully Vaccinated. The exceptions include:

Exception: Diplomats, employees of international organizations, and similar

Proclamation 10294 Section 3(b):

"(i) any noncitizen seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to one of the following nonimmigrant visa classifications:  A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee's immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO classifications);"

"(ii)  any noncitizen whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement or who is traveling pursuant to United States legal obligation (as evidenced by a letter of invitation from the United Nations or other documentation showing the purpose of such travel);"

Exception: Citizens of a foreign country where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited

Proclamation 10294 Section 3(b)(vii) provides an exception to the vaccination requirement for:

"... any noncitizen who is a citizen of a foreign country where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited, as identified pursuant to section 4(a)(v) of this proclamation, and who seeks to enter the United States pursuant to a nonimmigrant visa, except for a B-1 or B-2 visa;"

This seems to partially address the request in an October 14, 2021 letter (led by the American Council on Education (ACE) and joined by NAFSA and 36 other organizations) that asked the Biden administration to allow international students, scholars, and researchers from countries where the vaccine is not widely available or where U.S.- or World Health Organization-approved vaccines are not widely available, to enter and be vaccinated in the United States upon arrival. Read the October 14, 2021 ACE letter that NAFSA joined.

Section 4(a)(v) of Proclamation 10294 charges "the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Director of the CDC," with "maintaining a list of countries where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited, with such countries defined as those where less than 10 percent of the country's total population has been fully vaccinated with any available COVID-19 vaccine or are otherwise determined by the Director of the CDC to qualify as countries where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited."

CDC Order Implementing Proclamation on Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic mirrors the language of Proclamation 10294, and defines "Foreign Country with Limited COVID-19 Vaccine Availability" as "a foreign country where less than 10 percent of the country's total population has been fully vaccinated with any available COVID-19 vaccine. These countries are listed by CDC in Technical Instructions." CDC FAQs say that the list will be updated every three months.

In response to the question of whether someone qualifies for this exception if they live in a country with low vaccination availability but are a citizen of a country with high vaccination availability, another CDC FAQ responds: "No, to qualify for this exception, you must show a passport or other proof of citizenship of a country determined to have limited COVID-19 vaccine availability."

CDC's List of Foreign Countries with Limited COVID-19 Vaccine Availability includes the following 50 countries at present:

Table 4. List of Foreign Countries with Limited COVID-19 Vaccine Availability (current through October 25, 2021)
Afghanistan Djibouti Libya Sierra Leone
Algeria Egypt Madagascar Solomon Islands
Angola Ethiopia Malawi Somalia
Armenia Gabon Mali South Sudan
Benin Gambia Mozambique Sudan
Burundi Ghana Myanmar Syrian Arab Republic
Burkina Faso Guinea Namibia Togo
Cameroon Guinea-Bissau Nicaragua Uganda
Central African Republic Haiti Niger United Republic of Tanzania
Chad Iraq Nigeria Vanuatu
Congo Kenya Papua New Guinea Yemen
Cote d'Ivoire Kiribati Senegal Zambia
Democratic Republic of the Congo Liberia    

CDC Technical Guidance: Citizens of Countries with Limited COVID-19 Vaccine Availability with Non-B-1 or B-2 Nonimmigrant Visa says that airlines or aircraft operators "must confirm that an individual claiming this exception has: A passport issued by a foreign country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability; and A valid nonimmigrant visa that is not a B-1 or B-2 visa... Airlines or aircraft operators must also confirm that the passenger has provided an Excepted Covered Individual Attestation."

Exception: Noncitizens who are children under 18 years of age, or noncitizens for whom a COVID-19 vaccination is contraindicated or inappropriate

Proclamation 10294 Section 3(b):

"(iii)  any noncitizen for whom, given their age, requiring vaccination would be inappropriate, as determined by the Director of the CDC, taking into account global vaccine availability for individuals in that age group;"

"(v)  any noncitizen for whom accepted COVID-19 vaccination is medically contraindicated, as determined by the Director of the CDC;"

"(vi)  any noncitizen who has been granted an exception by the Director of the CDC for humanitarian or emergency reasons, as determined by the Director of the CDC;"

The exception at Section 3(b)(iii) would appear to be available to certain unvaccinated minor children under 18 years of age, for example, children of students and scholars coming to the United States in dependent statuses such as F-2, J-2, H-4, etc.

The White House Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Releases Additional Detail for Implementing a Safer, More Stringent International Air Travel System has this to say about the exception for children:

"Requirements for Children:

  • Children under 18 are excepted from the vaccination requirement for foreign national travelers, given both the ineligibility of some younger children for vaccination, as well as the global variability in access to vaccination for older children who are eligible to be vaccinated.
  • Children between the ages of 2 and 17 are required to take a pre-departure test.
  • If traveling with a fully vaccinated adult, an unvaccinated child can test three days prior to departure (consistent with the timeline for fully vaccinated adults). If an unvaccinated child is traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults, they will have to test within one day of departure." [NAFSA note: since the "timeline for fully vaccinated adults has changed from 3 days to 1 day under the CDC's amended order effective December 6, 2021, all unvaccinated children will likely be required to be tested no more than 1 day prior to departure.)

In addition, the 60-day post-entry vaccination requirement of Proclamation 10294 Section 2(c) does not apply to a child under 18 years of age, although children must still "present a completed Excepted Covered Individual Attestation to the airline or aircraft operator prior to embarking an aircraft destined to the United States." See CDC Order Implementing Proclamation on Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Exception: National interest

Under Proclamation 10294 Section 3(b), the proclamation is not applicable to:

(x) any noncitizen or group of noncitizens whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.

According to CDC Order Implementing Proclamation on Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic, "Any Excepted Covered Individual granted an exception in the national interest must present an official U.S. government letter and a completed Excepted Covered Individual Attestation to the airline or aircraft operator prior to embarking an aircraft destined to the United States. Such an individual must also attest to agreeing and arranging to be vaccinated within 60 days of arriving in the United States, or as soon thereafter as is medically appropriate, if they intend to stay in the United States for more than 60 days."

Do not assume that the national interest exception categories developed under the now revoked geographic proclamations will continue under Proclamation 10294. As of now, a list of national interest exceptions under the new proclamation is not available.

Other exceptions

Other exceptions include:

Proclamation 10294 Section 3(a): "any noncitizen seeking entry as a crew member of an airline or other aircraft operator if such crew member or operator adheres to all industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19, as set forth in relevant guidance for crew member health issued by the CDC or by the Federal Aviation Administration in coordination with the CDC."

Proclamation 10294 Section 3(b):

"(iv) any noncitizen who has participated or is participating in certain clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination, as determined by the Director of the CDC;"

"(viii) any noncitizen who is a member of the United States Armed Forces or who is a spouse or child of a member of the United States Armed Forces;"

(xi) any noncitizen seeking entry as a sea crew member traveling pursuant to a C-1 and D nonimmigrant visa, if such crew member adheres to all industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19, as set forth in relevant guidance for crew member health by the CDC;"

No exception for religious reasons or other moral convictions

According to CDC FAQs, "there are no exceptions under the Presidential Proclamation and CDC's Order for religious reasons or other moral convictions." Likewise, the CDC Order Implementing Proclamation on Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic states: "Objections to vaccination based on religious or moral convictions do not qualify under this or any other exception listed in the Proclamation or this Order." Students who have received an institutional exemption on these bases for purposes of the school's vaccination requirement should be advised that the school's exemption will not be recognized for purposes of entry to the United States under the proclamation and CDC order.

60-Day Vaccination Requirement for Excepted Covered Individuals Admitted to the United States Under a 3(b) Exception

Nonimmigrants not fully vaccinated who are traveling by air to the United States under one of the Section 3(b) exceptions to Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021 (referred to Excepted Covered Individuals in CDC guidance), are required, under Proclamation 10294 Section 2(c), to "...become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States, within some other timeframe as determined by the Director of the CDC, or as soon as medically appropriate as determined by the Director of the CDC, and must provide proof of having arranged to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 after arriving in the United States, unless:

(i)    the noncitizen's intended stay is sufficiently brief, as determined by the Director of the CDC;

(ii)   the noncitizen is one for whom, given their age, requiring vaccination would be inappropriate, as determined by the Director of the CDC;

(iii)  the noncitizen has participated or is participating in certain clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination, as determined by the Director of the CDC [NAFSA note: see CDC Technical Instructions for the list of acceptable COVID-19 clinical trial vaccinations];

(iv)   COVID-19 vaccination is medically contraindicated for the noncitizen, as determined by the Director of the CDC [NAFSA note: see CDC Technical Instructions: Medical Contraindication to COVID-19 Vaccination];

(v)    the noncitizen is described in section 3(b)(i) or 3(b)(ii) of this proclamation [NAFSA note: these are the exceptions for diplomats and employees of international organizations] and has previously received a COVID-19 vaccine that is authorized or approved by the noncitizen's country of nationality, as determined by the Director of the CDC, in consultation with the Secretary of State; or

(vi)   the Director of the CDC otherwise determines that COVID-19 vaccination is not warranted for the noncitizen."

The mechanics and procedures of this post-entry vaccination requirement are not yet available, but the CDC Order Implementing Proclamation on Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic contains attestation and other requirements. CDC has provided a Combined Passenger Disclosure and Attestation that fulfills the attestation requirements of CDC orders.

The CDC states the following on its Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Approved or Authorized in the United States page:

  • "People who received the first dose of a 2-dose FDA-approved or FDA-authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccine do not need to restart the vaccine series in the United States. They should receive the second dose as close to the recommended time as possible and upon completion of the 2-dose primary series are considered fully vaccinated."
  • "The following people who received a COVID-19 vaccine that is not currently FDA-approved or FDA-authorized in the United States may be offered a complete FDA-approved or FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine primary series as follows:
    • People who have received only the first dose of a 2-dose COVID-19 primary series listed for emergency use by WHO4
    • People who received all or some of the recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine primary series that is not listed for emergency use by WHO.
  • The minimum interval between receipt of the non-FDA-approved/authorized vaccine and initiation of the FDA-approved/authorized COVID-19 vaccine primary series is at least 28 days."

This would likely be applicable to Excepted Covered Travelers who were either partially vaccinated with a vaccine accepted by the FDA or WHO, or who were vaccinated in whole or in part with a COVID-19 vaccine not accepted by the FDA or WHO prior to being admitted to the United States. Visitors with medical questions regarding vaccination should consult a physician or other appropriate medical provider.

Acceptable Vaccines and the Meaning of Fully Vaccinated

Section 4(a) of Proclamation 10294 charges the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Director of the CDC," with implementing the proclamation as it applies to the public health components of the proclamation. This includes:

"(i)    defining and specifying accepted COVID-19 vaccines or combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines, and medical contraindications to accepted COVID-19 vaccines or combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines, for purposes of this proclamation;

(ii)   defining whether an individual is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and specifying acceptable methods of proving that an individual is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, for purposes of this proclamation;

(iii)  specifying acceptable methods of proving that an individual has arranged to comply with applicable public health requirements and protocols to protect against the further introduction, transmission, and spread of COVID-19 into and throughout the United States, including pre-departure testing, post-arrival testing, post-arrival self-quarantine or self-isolation, and post-arrival vaccination against COVID-19, for purposes of this proclamation;

(iv)   determining whether certain persons qualify as participants in certain clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination, for purposes of this proclamation;

(v)    maintaining a list of countries where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited, with such countries defined as those where less than 10 percent of the country's total population has been fully vaccinated with any available COVID-19 vaccine or are otherwise determined by the Director of the CDC to qualify as countries where the availability of COVID-19 vaccination is limited; and

(vi)   establishing other public health measures consistent with this proclamation to protect against the further introduction, transmission, and spread of COVID-19 into and throughout the United States by persons described in section 2 of this proclamation."

Acceptable Vaccines

The CDC webpage Requirement for Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination for Air Passengers lists the following vaccines as acceptable for this purpose:

Accepted COVID-19 Vaccines
  Vaccines Approved or Authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Vaccines Listed for Emergency Use (EUL) by the World Health Organization
Single dose
  •  Janssen/J&J
  • Janssen/J&J
2-dose series
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca
  • Covaxin
  • Covishield
  • BIBP/Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

 

Vaccination with a vaccine not on these lists would not satisfy Proclamation 10294 requirements, until the FDA or WHO adds the vaccine to their lists.

Meaning of "Fully Vaccinated"

CDC Order Implementing Proclamation on Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic defines "Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19" as someone for whom it has been:

  • 2 weeks (14 days) or more since a person received one dose of an accepted single-dose-series COVID-19 vaccine; OR

  • 2 weeks (14 days) or more since a person's second dose in a 2-dose series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine; OR

  • 2 weeks (14 days) or more since a person received the full series of an "active" (not placebo) COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S.-based AstraZeneca or Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trials; OR

  • 2 weeks (14 days) or more since a person received a complete series of a vaccine or combination of vaccines listed by CDC in Technical Instructions.

The CDC webpage Requirement for Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination for Air Passengers describes the meaning of "fully vaccinated" for this purpose:

"Are you Fully Vaccinated for Air Travel to the United States?

You are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series COVID-19 vaccine; or

  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an "active" (not placebo) COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S.-based AstraZeneca or Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trials

  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any "mix-and-match" combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart*

If you don't meet these requirements, you are NOT considered fully vaccinated.

*CDC has not recommended the use of mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine primary series. However, such strategies are increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the purpose of interpreting vaccination records for travel to the United States, CDC will accept combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines."

Proof of Vaccination

CDC Technical Instructions: Types of Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination state that "Airlines or aircraft operators must confirm that every Covered Individual, unless excepted, has presented Proof of Being Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States from any foreign country. Airlines or aircraft operators must review each passenger's paper or digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination to confirm:

  • the personal identifiers (at a minimum, full name and date of birth) on the proof of vaccination match the personal identifiers on the passenger's passport or other travel identification document; AND
  • the passenger meets CDC's definition of Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19.

CDC Technical Instructions: Types of Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination and Table 1. Acceptable Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination describe acceptable proof and provide examples.

In addition to providing vaccine or exception documentation, prior to boarding the traveler will also have to complete and give to the airline an attestation that conforms to the CDC Combined Passenger Disclosure and Attestation.

Negative COVID-19 Viral Test Condition

Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021 does not institute new negative COVID-19 test requirements. Rather, in addition to being subject to the new proof of vaccination requirements instituted by Proclamation 10294, nonimmigrants who are entering the United States through an air port of entry are also subject to CDC rules that require all travelers (including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and all other travelers regardless of citizenship) to present proof of receiving a negative pre-departure viral test result for COVID-19. Nonimmigrants subject to Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021 will have to show both proof of being fully vaccinated (or qualify under one of the narrow exceptions) and proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test.

The CDC has twice amended its original January 25, 2021 Order, titled "Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States": Once on October 25, 2021 and once on December 2, 2021.

Briefly:

  • The negative COVID-19 test requirement applies to all air passengers 2 years or older boarding a flight to the United States.
  • For flights departing through December 5, 2021:
    • Fully vaccinated individuals: The viral test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 3 days before the flight's departure from a foreign country.
    • Not fully vaccinated: The viral test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 1 day before the flight's departure from a foreign country if the traveler does not show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This also includes nonimmigrants who are not fully vaccinated, but who are requesting admission to the United States under an exception to the vaccination requirement of Proclamation of October 25, 2021.
  • For flights departing at or after 12:01 EST on December 6, 2021:
    • The viral test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 1 day before the flight's departure from a foreign country, regardless of vaccination status. This also includes nonimmigrants who are not fully vaccinated, but who are requesting admission to the United States under an exception to the vaccination requirement of Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021.

Those who recently tested positive for COVID-19 and have recently recovered "may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e., your positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight's departure from a foreign country and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel)."

CDC Order Implementing Proclamation on Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic defines "viral test" as "a viral detection test for current infecton (i.e., a nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or a viral antigen test) approved or authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the detection of SARS-CoV-2."

Entry Through a Land or Ferry Port of entry

Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021 applies only to air travel. However, on October 12, 2021, regarding entry through land POEs at the Canadian and Mexican borders, DHS announced that "following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health experts, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will amend Title 19 regulations to allow non-essential travelers who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation to enter the United States via land and ferry ports of entry (POEs) across the U.S. border." Secretary Mayorkas is quoted:

"'In alignment with the new international air travel system that will be implemented in November, we will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings,' said Secretary Mayorkas. 'Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy. We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.'

The modifications to the Title 19 regulations will occur in two phases over the next few months.  First, in November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin allowing fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico or Canada to enter the United States at land and ferry POEs for non-essential reasons. Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination. Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will not be allowed to travel for non-essential purposes from Canada and Mexico into the United States via land and ferry POEs

Second, beginning in early January 2022, DHS will require that all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry POEs – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. This approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers, students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated.

This new travel system will create consistent, stringent protocols for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States – whether by air, land, or ferry – and accounts for the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccinations."

This indicates that a separate two-phase implementation of a COVID vaccine requirement is planned for entry through land or ferry ports of entry at the Canadian and Mexican Borders. Unlike air POE requirements, so far there has been no mention of also requiring negative COVID test results for entry through a land POE.

  • November 8, 2021: "First, in November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin allowing fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico or Canada to enter the United States at land and ferry POEs for non-essential reasons. Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination. Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will not be allowed to travel for non-essential purposes from Canada and Mexico into the United States via land and ferry POEs."
  • Early January, 2022: "Second, beginning in early January 2022, DHS will require that all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry POEs – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. This approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers, students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated."

DHS Fact Sheet: Guidance for Travelers to Enter the U.S. at Land Ports of Entry and Ferry Terminals confirms:

"Fully vaccinated, non-citizen travelers with appropriate documentation will be permitted to enter the United States for non-essential travel via land POE and ferry terminals starting on November 8, 2021.

This shift eases long-standing restrictions on non-essential travel, consistent with public health guidance. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will soon share additional information about the steps eligible travelers will need to take to enter the United States under the new rules.

Starting November 8, when arriving at a U.S. land POE or ferry terminal, non-citizen travelers should be prepared to:

  • present proof of COVID-19 vaccination as outlined on the CDC website; and,

  • verbally attest to their non-essential travel and COVID-19 vaccination status.

Individuals engaged in essential travel will not be required to be vaccinated at this time. Starting in January 2022, however, all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land POEs or ferry terminals – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination."

This will have the effect of partially keeping portions of the current restrictions (in place until January 21, 2022) that limit travel through the land ports of entry and ferry terminals along the United States-Canada and United States-Mexico borders to "essential travel," which includes, but is not limited to:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada in furtherance of such work);
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada);
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.

And so, for example, between November 8, 2021 and early January, 2022 an unvaccinated student could still enter the United States through a land port of entry, as that purpose will continue to be recognized as "essential travel." Starting sometime in January, though, the "essential travel" exception at land POEs will lapse, and all nonimmigrants, including "Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions" and "Individuals traveling to work in the United States," will have to show proof of being fully vaccinated in order to enter the United States through a land POE.

DHS Frequently Asked Questions: Guidance for Travelers to Enter the U.S. at Land Ports of Entry and Ferry Terminals say that, "CBP's Office of Field Operations (OFO) expects an increase in border wait times, especially at our busiest crossing locations.  Trade and travel facilitation remain a priority, however, we cannot compromise national security which is our primary mission."

Acceptable vaccines for land and ferry POEs will include the same list of vaccines acceptable for travel through air POEs.