As many of you know, since the start of the COVID pandemic there were few travel bans put up by the US. The most recent one was by Biden on April 30th, 2021 that banned Travelers from India due to a surge in COVID cases in India. Though the situation across the world has got better, the US has kept the travel ban in place for 33 countries that include EU Schengen Area, UK, Ireland, South Africa, India, China, Iran, and Brazil.
White House and US Dept of State announced plans for a new policy that will lift the travel ban starting from November 8th, 2021. In this article, we will summarize the news so far since the announcement and share the latest status. We will continue to update this article with the latest news
US Travel Ban to be lifted from November 8th, 2021 – News Summary
Below is the summary of the announcement made by the White House related to lifting the travel ban for foreign nationals.
Travel Bans to be lifted, Vaccination Requirements to be added
Starting from November 8th, 2021, the travel ban will not be applicable to foreigners entering the US, who are fully vaccinated. The existing negative COVID test requirements will continue to be in place for international travelers to the US. Travelers need to submit proof of vaccination and negative COVID test results in order to enter the US at the port of entry. The proof of vaccination and negative COVID test that was taken within 3 days from the travel date has to be shown before boarding the flight to the US.
Check Official US Dept of State Press Release on the lifting of Travel Ban
List of Vaccines Accepted for Travel to US
US Dept of State confirmed that they would accept US Food and Drug Administration(FDA) approved vaccines or list of vaccines that are approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization(WHO). They say that Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) would give more guidance on the list of vaccines. check the above screenshot of the press release by Dept of State.
As per CDC, below are the list of approved vaccines and you have to meet the 2 weeks timeline as well after getting the second shot to be considered fully vaccinated :
- Pfizer Biontech — FDA Approved
- Moderna — FDA Approved
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) — FDA Approved
- AstraZeneca, Covishield — WHO Approved
- Sinovac — WHO Approved
- Sinopharm BIBP — WHO Approved
- Check the below screenshot from Official CDC Website that shows fully vaccinated definition.
- Also check Official Current Full list of WHO Approved vaccines
For Latest info, check the article on List of COVID Vaccines Accepted by US for Travel
One of the potential issues with the above approach is that many who were vaccinated with other vaccines like Covax or others will not be eligible. We need to wait and see the final policy document on what comes out.
CDC would require Airlines to collect contact Information
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) would require the Airlines operating flights to the US to collect the contact information that includes phone numbers and email addresses of all individuals traveling to the US. This data would primarily be used for help with contact tracing.
US Land Border Policies
On October 12th, 2021, DHS secretary said that they will start to allow travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully Vaccinated for COVID-19 to travel by Land for non-essential purposes. This is also planned to be effective from early November 2021. This is a really big thing as US has finally taken the measure to end 19 months of travel restrictions on land with Mexico and Canada.
Travel Ban based on Vaccination of Individual, not Country-based
The new rules that will allow travelers to enter the US are going to be based on Individuals and their vaccination status, including test statuses. This is a much stronger approach as it is based on individuals entering rather than their country of origin. Also, this is a good move as it will help many avoid spending 14 days in other countries that are not on the travel ban countries list.
No Quarantine, testing requirements for Fully Vaccniated,
If you are fully vaccinated and have a negative COVID test, you do not have any quarantine requirements. There would be additional testing requirements, including quarantine for anyone who is not fully vaccinated, including American citizens and Green Card holders. They have not released full details on these requirements yet.
Jeff Zients: Foreign nationals, flying to U.S. will be required to be fully vaccinated and must must show proof of vaccination before boarding an airplane to the U.S. Unvaccinated Americans will have stricter testing COVID requirements as part of a new contact tracing system.— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) September 20, 2021
What does US Lifting Travel Ban mean for Travelers ?
As of today, if you need to travel to the US from any of these 33 countries in the travel ban list, you need a National Interest Exception(NIE) from US Consulate or Embassy. After the new policy goes into effect from November 8th, 2021, individuals who are fully vaccinated do not need the NIE approval from the consulates. Below are more details.
- No need to email Consulates for NIE : If the travelers have a valid visa and meet the two requirements of fully vaccinated and negative COVID test, they will be allowed to board the plane. There is no need to email the consulates for approval. This applies to Visa Waiver Program travelers with ESTA approval as well.
- US Visa Stamping NIE Requirements : Today, if you applying for US Visa stamping for in-perosn interview or going for visa renewal like H1B Dropbox Stamping you need to show that you are part of the 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors in US and qualify for NIE to get Visa. Applicants need to submit NIE Letters from employers to prove that they are part of vital support. If not, they would be given 221g based on not meeting NIE requriements. Starting from November 8th, all of these NIE letters or proofs may not be needed, if you meet the vaccine requirements and negative COVID test. We are yet to get official press release from US Dept of State on this. So, stay tuned.
- Visitors – B1/ B2 Travel : Currently, most of the visitors from the 33 travel ban countries, unless they qualify for Emergency Visa Appointment , are not allowed to enter the US or even get Visa stamping. Many families members, including parents applying for Visitors (B2 Visa) are not able to get stamping or travel to US with the travel ban. Starting from November, this will change and all of these individuals would be able to get stamping done and travel to the US. But, the US Visa appointments wait times are already crazy, it will be even harder to get slots as more will be looking for slots. We need to wait and see how consulates handle this.
US Travel Ban to be Lifted for India
Many may wonder if the US travel ban would be lifted for India as well or not. As per the announcement from the White House, the travel ban would be lifted for India as well. The whole approach of going the vaccination route is to eliminate the country-specific requirements and introduce individual-specific requirements for entry based on vaccination status.
There is no official update on the US Embassy or US Consulates on how lifting the travel ban would impact the US Visa appointments in India. As of now, there are very limited slots available for stamping and only interview waiver applicants with NIE are allowed to get stamping. No B1/B2 visitors are allowed to get stamping. All the consulates are operating in a limited fashion. You can check US Visa Stamping in India News Updates for the latest info and updates.
Next Steps – Exact List of Exceptions
We have the official date of Travel Ban lifting and some details on the accepted vaccines. But, we do not have the full official list on the exceptions on how they would treat travelers. CDC has given some guidance as mentioned above.
More details on the exceptions, other policy documents would be released by US Dept of State and CDC. We will keep you posted in this article.
Latest News Updates on Lifting Travel ban to US
Below are the list of news updates on Travel Ban with links to official and news sources for further reading and review
- October 15th, 2021 : Whitehouse annouced that they would lift the US Travel Ban starting from November 8th, 2021. Also, US Dept of State made official press release on the same. Still policy documents are not yet fully released on the exceptions. CDC has given some guidance. Check US Dept of State Press Release and BBC News , WSJ News , Reuters News
- October 12th, 2021 : US announced that they will allow Mexico and Canada Travelers, who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, to travel to US by land starting from early November. It was announced by DHS in a press release. Check Reuters News , NY Times News , Reuters News
- Sep 20th, 2021 : White House announces in virtual press release the upcoming plans on lifting travel ban. Check more details at NPR.org , Associated Press News, Washington Post , CNBC News
The US Dept of State confirmed that they would refer to CDC Guidance for list of vaccines. Based on CDC guidance, they would accept FDA approved vaccines or WHO approved emergency use vaccines list. For more, check List of Vaccines Accepted in US for Travel
The US Travel ban would be lifted on November 8th, 2021. This date was announced on Oct 15th, by the White House officials and confirmed by US Dept of State.
As per CDC, they would accept WHO Approved vaccines. In India, the widely used WHO approved vaccine that is based on AstraZeneca/Oxford is Covishied vaccine. Covax does not have the WHO approval yet and is in th process.
The India Travel Ban to travel to US will be lifted on November 8th, 2021. This is going to be general date for everyone and not tied to specific country.
Yes, it is applicable to all visa types and does not have any restrictions. You need to meet the basic requirements of Vaccination and negative covid test to travel to the US.
What are your thoughts on lifting the travel ban announcement by the US? Add your thoughts in the comments below.