Several weeks ago the Biden administration revealed that the United States will finally be ending its nonsensical travel bans, instead replacing them with a new vaccination requirement for foreign visitors. Furthermore, unvaccinated Americans who are traveling internationally will be required to undergo more testing.
There were a lot of questions remaining regarding the United States’ policy, including when exactly the new rules would be put into place. We now know that the new policy will kick in as of November 8, 2021, so let’s go over all of the details, including which vaccines the United States will accept.
United States will end blanket travel bans
As of November 8, 2021, the United States’ current travel bans will be coming to an end, as they’ll instead be replaced by a system that requires visitors to be vaccinated.
For context, dating back as far as the spring of 2020, the United States has 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 will be no more starting in a few weeks.
United States will require visitors to be vaccinated
Replacing the current travel bans, the United States will instead require visitors to be vaccinated. The policy will kick in as of November 8, 2021. As before, all travelers will need to provide a negative coronavirus test result, taken within three days of travel to the United States. There will be no need to quarantine on arrival.
It’s expected that children will be exempt from this policy, but it’s not known yet what the cutoff age is for that, and if children will just need a standard coronavirus test, or what.
Which vaccines will the United States accept?
For the purposes of entry into the country, the United States will recognize any vaccines authorized by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO). That includes the following vaccines:
- Johnson & Johnson
Ultimately 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, as well as those who had India’s Covaxin vaccine.
Unvaccinated Americans will have to double test
There are also some changes with travel rules for unvaccinated Americans. Currently Americans can always enter the United States as long as they get a coronavirus test within three days of return travel to the country. That will be changing. Unvaccinated Americans:
- Will need to test within a day of returning to the United States, rather than within three days
- Will need to test again after returning to the United States
The exact details of these new requirements remain to be seen, especially surrounding the testing on arrival. Presumably this wouldn’t happen at the airport, but rather people would have some amount of time to get tested on their own (whether or not that’s using the honor system remains to be seen).
This creates a big incentive for international travelers from the United States to get vaccinated.
This should have happened a long time ago
Frankly I’ve been disappointed by President Biden’s lack of actions on these travel bans, as this policy will be implemented just under 10 months after he took office. Biden always promised he’d “follow the science,” and there’s simply no denying that these outdated travel bans that do nothing to account for actual risk haven’t in any way followed the science.
The restrictions haven’t been based on the epidemiological situation in a country, but rather have been 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 is changing its travel restrictions, eliminating the current blanket travel bans that are in place. Instead, the United States will welcome vaccinated travelers from around the world as of November 8, 2021. The United States will recognize any FDA or WHO approved vaccines for these purposes. Furthermore, unvaccinated Americans will need to double test when returning to the United States, including getting a test within a day of travel.
It’s fantastic to see these travel bans finally ending. This is oh-so-overdue.
What do you make of the US eliminating its current travel bans?