It’s a huge day for travel, as the United States’ nonsensical travel bans have ended as of today (Monday, November 8, 2021), instead being replaced by a new vaccination requirement for foreign visitors. Furthermore, as of today unvaccinated Americans face more stringent testing requirements when returning to the United States.
Let’s go over all the details of what has changed.
In this post:
United States ends blanket travel bans
For context, dating back to the spring of 2020, the United States had a variety of travel bans in place during the pandemic, preventing non-Americans from entering the country if they’ve been in certain foreign countries in the past 14 days. We’ve seen bans against Brazil, China, India, the Schengen Zone, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, among other countries. These blanket bans now no longer apply.
United States requires visitors to be vaccinated
Replacing the previous travel bans, as of November 8, 2021, the United States is instead requiring visitors to be vaccinated. All travelers need to provide a negative coronavirus test result — for vaccinated travelers this needs to be within three days, while for unvaccinated travelers this needs to be within one day. There’s no need to quarantine on arrival.
What about children visiting the United States?
Children under the age of 18 are exempt from the United States’ vaccination requirement. Instead they just need to have a negative coronavirus test result. For unvaccinated children, the timeline for having to be tested depends on whether or not their parents are vaccinated (which seems a bit odd) — children traveling with vaccinated parents need to be tested within three days of travel, while children traveling with unvaccinated parents need to be tested within one day of travel.
This shouldn’t be a major issue regardless, since the United States accepts a rapid antigen test for entry, and those results are available within minutes.
Which vaccines does the United States accept?
For the purposes of entry into the country, the United States recognizes any vaccines authorized by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO). That includes the following vaccines:
- Johnson & Johnson
I’d say this is good news, because it could have been a lot worse if the United States only accepted FDA approved vaccines, and not WHO approved ones. However, it is worth acknowledging that this will shut out some people, including those who had Russia’s Sputnik vaccine.
Unvaccinated Americans have new testing requirements
There are also some changes with travel rules for unvaccinated Americans. Previously Americans could always enter the United States as long as they got a coronavirus test within three days of return travel to the country. That has finally changed.
Unvaccinated Americans now need to get tested within one day of their return flight to the United States, rather than within three days. A rapid antigen test still qualifies, so given how quickly those results are available, this shouldn’t be a major issue. Rather it seems that this is intended to create a further incentive to be vaccinated.
This should have happened a long time ago
I’m thrilled to see this new policy finally introduced, as I’ve been disappointed by President Biden’s lack of actions on these travel bans for the nearly 10 months he has been in office. Biden always promised he’d “follow the science,” and there’s simply no denying that these outdated travel bans that did nothing to account for actual risk didn’t in any way follow the science.
The restrictions weren’t based on the epidemiological situation in a country, but rather were based on identifying places that had a bad outbreak at one point, but then the bans were never revisited.
Determining eligibility to enter the United States based on vaccination status makes a lot more sense. Being vaccinated significantly reduces your risk of hospitalization and death, and it’s also believed to reduce your risk of getting coronavirus. Wanting people to be vaccinated makes a lot more sense than a blanket ban based on where someone is coming from.
I think it’s also important to recognize that travel bans go way beyond tourism. You have all kinds of important things that have been lost due to these bans — you have people in long distance relationships, babies have been born, people have died, etc.
The United States has finally changed its travel restrictions as of today, eliminating the blanket travel bans that were in place for a long time. The United States is now welcoming vaccinated travelers from around the world, which was long overdue.
The United States is recognizing any FDA or WHO approved vaccines for these purposes. Children under 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement. Furthermore, unvaccinated travelers now need to be tested within one day of travel to the United States, rather than within three days of travel.
It’s fantastic to see that these travel bans have finally ended. This is oh-so-overdue.
What do you make of the US eliminating its travel bans?