The US President signed an executive order on Monday that imposes new vaccine conditions for most foreign national air travelers and lifts severe travel restrictions on India, China and several countries in Europe, effective 8 November, according to a White House statement.
These extraordinary travel restrictions were first enforced in early 2020 as a measure to check the spread of COVID-19. The existing regulations bar most non-U.S. citizens who have been in Britain within the last 14 days, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran, Brazil and the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls.
“It is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the COVID-19 pandemic and to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States,” the proclamation signed by Joe Biden says.
In addition, the White House confirmed that children under 18 are exempt from the new vaccine requirements as are people with certain medical issues. Non-tourist travelers from nearly 50 countries with nationwide vaccination rates of less than 10% will also be eligible for exemption from the rules. Those receiving an exemption will be required to be vaccinated within 60 days of arriving in US.
Those countries include Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Armenia, Myanmar, Iraq, Nicaragua, Senegal, Uganda, Libya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Yemen, Haiti, Chad and Madagascar.
The White House first disclosed on 20 September it would remove restrictions in early November for fully vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries.
“Families and friends can see each other again, tourists can visit our amazing landmarks. This policy will further boost economic recovery,” a State Department spokesperson said.
The Biden administration also specified requirements airlines must follow to confirm foreign travelers have been vaccinated before boarding flights bound to US.
One of the challenges for US officials and airlines is to ensure foreign travelers are aware of the new vaccine rules that will take effect in just two weeks as well unvaccinated Americans who will now be subject to stricter testing rules.