The Biden administration plans to revoke COVID-19-related travel bans imposed in 2020 and replace them with vaccination and testing requirements to enter the United States, starting in November.
Claire Nilson, head of the global mobility and immigration team at Faegre Drinker’s London office, explained that since the start of the pandemic, travelers who have been in Brazil, China, European Schengen countries, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, and the UK in the previous 14 days were banned from flying directly to the US unless they were either a US citizen or green card holder, or if they had first requested and received an exception exemption.
Schengen area countries covered by the COVID-19 ban include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary , Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The Biden administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said fully vaccinated travelers will need to take pre-departure testing within three days of their departure to the United States, but they will not be required to self-quarantine upon arrival.
He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will determine the definition of “fully vaccinated” and which vaccines are eligible for the policy.
“So far, the US government has not clarified what will constitute appropriate proof of vaccination and which COVID-19 vaccines will be recognized beyond the three already authorized in the United States. [Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson]”said Nilson.
Notably, hundreds of millions of people around the world have received the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been recognized by the World Health Organization but has not obtained approval from US regulators.
The CDC will also issue a contact tracing order requiring airlines to collect contact information from every traveler to the United States. “This will allow the CDC and state and local public health officials to track incoming travelers and their entourage if someone has potentially been exposed to COVID-19,” Zients said.
Alka Bahal, partner at Fox Rothschild’s office in Morristown, NJ, said it’s not just leisure travelers who are happy with the Biden administration’s announcement; this decision will have a significant positive impact on business immigration to the United States.
“Many foreign nationals in the United States on work visas remained confined in the United States due to travel bans, unable to reach their homes for fear of not being able to return,” said Bahal. “I hope that the lifting of the bans will soon be followed by the resumption of normal visa processing at US consulates and embassies around the world. This will further increase visa processing by allowing foreign nationals who have no not been able to get their first US work visa now to get them and come to the US to work.
In the past 18 months, virtually all visitors from prohibited countries have been barred from traveling directly to the United States. Some have resorted to workarounds such as spending two weeks in an intermediate country like Mexico or the Dominican Republic, before getting a negative coronavirus test and then entering the United States.
For foreign nationals who are not currently subject to any of the existing travel bans, the upcoming policy adds an additional requirement for international travel: they will need to provide proof of vaccination in addition to the COVID-19 test.
“All of this information is subject to change by November, as the White House has only announced plans to lift travel bans but has yet to do so,” said Matthew Gunn, partner at Louisville. , Ky., Dinsmore office. “No specific November date for the lifting of the bans has been announced, and we have no detailed information on how the new policies will be implemented.”
The new policy is expected to make travel easier, but backlogs at U.S. consulates are expected to increase, which will delay travel for those who need a U.S. visa.
“Just because the travel bans are lifted does not mean that visa issuance will suddenly revert to pre-travel ban processing rates,” Gunn said.
“US Consulates around the world are currently operating under reduced manpower, under strict COVID-19 restrictions and facing growing backlogs, while complying with State Department guidelines for prioritizing [green card] visa applications on [temporary work visas]. Consulates will continue to struggle for some time, which means there will always be significant delays in making visa appointments. “
Gunn recommended that anyone needing a visa to the United States make an appointment at the consulate as soon as possible. “While they are unlikely to be able to submit an expedited application before the bans are lifted, they will at least have an appointment in place for the purpose of an expedited application when possible,” he said. declared.
“Even if the acceleration request is ultimately refused, these candidates will still have an appointment in place, which will take place much earlier than if they had waited until November to schedule it. In November, many will realize for the first time that travel bans no longer exist, and having a date scheduled now should put you in the face of the flood of meeting requests that consulates will see as a result. “