After four months of deliberation on easing entry restrictions for foreign nationals in a calibrated manner, the White House has finally issued new entry rules and travel guidelines for international travelers boarding flights into USA on or after November 8, 2021. President Biden signed a new proclamation for safe resumption of air travel to the US, replacing all the previous proclamations that imposed country-by-country travel restrictions during the pandemic, with a vaccination-based air travel policy as the premise of entry into the US. The new proclamation exempts children under 18 from the vaccine-based entry policy and comes with limited exceptions for certain foreign individuals (noncitizen nonimmigrants).
The new proclamation will take effect at 12:01 a.m. EST (9:31 p.m. IST) on November 8. The proclamation does not apply to the US-bound passengers of a flight that is scheduled to depart from a foreign country prior to 12:01 a.m. EST on NOV 8. Travel Beats, the exclusive US-India travel news portal owned by Indian Eagle, a most trusted travel partner of the Indian-origin community in the US, decoded the new guidelines for travel to USA.
For 18 months, Various Presidential Proclamations restricted entry into the US for certain US visa holders who have been in India and Europe during 14 days prior to their planned travel to the US. However, from November 2021, fully-vaccinated foreign nationals will be able to enter the US without NIE approval and on condition of giving their consent to undergo testing and contact tracing on arrival.
USA’s guidelines for full-vaccinated international arrivals
As per the United States’ new entry rules, fully-vaccinated international travelers, irrespective of their citizenship, immigration status and visa, must carry proof of vaccination and a negative report (with a QR code if travel originates in India) of the COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to their scheduled departure for the US. Fully vaccinated international arrivals may not be needed to undergo quarantine in the US. Those who took the second jab of a two-dose vaccine or the jab of one-dose Janssen approved or listed by WHO, at least 14 days before their scheduled travel to the US, are considered fully vaccinated.
The proof of vaccination must be a paper or digital certificate issued by an official source in the country where the vaccine was administered. It should have the vaccine name, the date(s) of receiving the vaccine dose(s), and the traveler’s name as well as date of birth. Airlines are directed to verify the US-bound passengers’ proof of vaccination prior to onboarding them.
USA’s new entry rules for children under 18
The United States’ vaccine-based entry requirement does not apply to unvaccinated children under 18, starting on November 8, until further notice. This exemption will be reviewed when vaccines will be rolled out and available for children under 18 in different parts of the world.
The pre-departure testing window (72 hours) remains unaltered for unvaccinated children (between the ages of 2 and 17) if they are accompanied by fully-vaccinated adults. If an unvaccinated child travels to USA alone or with an unvaccinated adult (in limited cases), the child needs to take a COVID-19 viral test within 24 hours prior to scheduled departure from the country of travel origin.
The US’ pre-arrival or pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirement does not apply to children under 2 years of age.
International airlines will be required to collect contact information of their USA-bound passengers traveling from or via the countries which have been subject to the Presidential Proclamations till date. It will help with contact-tracing of international arrivals in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal public health agency. In October, a directive on this will be issued to the airlines operating flights to USA from India, the UK and EU countries.
USA’s new entry rules accept these vaccines for international arrivals
You must be wondering which vaccines will be accepted for international travelers’ entry into the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that the COVID-19 vaccines that WHO has approved or listed for emergency use will be accepted as part of the criteria for restrictions-free travel to the United States. The WHO-approved COVID vaccines are Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Janssen, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Covishield (India), Sinopharm (Beijing), and Sinovac. On November 3, WHO approved Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for emergency use. “Earlier this week, we informed airlines of the vaccines that would be accepted for arrival of international travelers from foreign countries,” the CDC added.
As the CDC approved the WHO-listed COVID vaccines, the Covishield or Covaxin-vaccinated Indians on B1/B2 and other US visas will be able to travel to the US without NIE approval or a 14-day stopover in a third country. After a lot of dillydallying, WHO approved and listed Covaxin for emergency use. Hence, Covaxin-inoculated Indians will not be subjected to the United States’ entry and travel restrictions. Recently, Australia, Oman, Iran, Philippines, Greece, Mauritius, Mexico and Estonia have reopened to Covaxin-vaccinated Indians.
New guidelines for unvaccinated US citizens and LPRs’ travel to USA
President Biden’s new proclamation on safe resumption of air travel to the US is equally stringent for unvaccinated US citizens and legal permanent residents returning to the country on or after November 8. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Americans and Green card holders will be able to enter the US, but they will have to take a COVID-19 viral test within 24 hours prior to undertaking the scheduled travel from a foreign country and a test on arrival in the US.
The same pre-departure testing window (24 hours) applies to fully-vaccinated US citizens and LPRs in case they are unable to show their proof of vaccination.
Who are exempted from USA’s vaccination requirement for entry?
The United States’ new travel guidelines for international arrivals suspend the entry of unvaccinated noncitizen nonimmigrants (mostly foreign nationals), starting on November 8. However, the new proclamation comes with limited exceptions that allow the arrival of unvaccinated noncitizen nonimmigrants in certain cases.
- Children under 18 years of age
- Foreign nationals traveling to USA for emergency or humanitarian reasons, as determined by the Director of CDC
- Foreign nationals traveling to USA for the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security
- Sea crew members and crew members of an airline or other aircraft operator
- Participants of certain clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination, as determined by the Director of CDC
- Members of the US Armed Forces and their immediate family members
- Foreign government officials and their immediate family members
- Those traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with the limited vaccine availability
- Those whose travel purpose is within the scope of the Section 11 of the UN Headquarters Agreement or the US legal obligation (they should have a letter of invitation from the United Nations or other document issued by a US legal body)
- Those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 due to rare medial contraindications, as determined by the Director of CDC
Since May 4, 2021, the White House imposed entry restrictions on certain visa holders from India and a few other countries through the Presidential Proclamation 10199. Since then, Indians, including B2 visa holders, have been either seeking National Interest Exception or bypassing the US entry restrictions via a third country. The United States’ new entry guidelines for fully-vaccinated foreign visitors will relieve Indians of the hassles of applying for NIE approval or taking a 15-day stopover in Doha or Dubai.
FAQs on new rules for travel to USA on and after November 8
What proof of vaccination should I provide to the airline as per America’s new rules for the arrival of Covishield-vaccinated Indians?
Your proof of vaccination must be an International Travel Certificate that you can download from the government of India’s CoWin portal. The certificate is compliant with WHO’s digital format for vaccination proof. The vaccine certificate/international travel certificate should specify the vaccine name, vaccine type, vaccine manufacturer, number and dates of the doses administered, other than your date of birth and passport number. Log in to the CoWin portal with your registered phone number, navigate to the ‘International Travel Certificate’ section and click on it. Enter your date of birth (as per the given format) and passport number. Then click on ‘Submit’. The certificate is ready to be downloaded. You can take a printout or carry a soft copy on your mobile device.
My name on the vaccine certificate does not match my name on the passport. Will it affect my travel to USA from India?
Your name on the vaccine proof/certificate must be the same as that on the passport. You can correct or update your name on the CoWin portal only once. Login to the CoWin portal and click the ‘Raise an Issue’ button. A dropdown menu appears. Select ‘Add Passport Details’ in the dropdown menu and click on this. Enter your passport details including the full name and hit ‘Submit’. Once you receive the confirmation message to the registered phone number, you can download the certificate. The process may take up to a few hours in some cases.
I was granted a National Interest Exception in August and the approval is valid through July 2022. Will I be able to use the NIE approval for travel on or after November 8?
If you are Covishield-vaccinated and have the proof of vaccination, you won’t need the NIE approval to travel to the US from India after the new proclamation takes effect at 12:01 a.m. EST on NOV 8. The national interest exception may help you travel to the US if you are still unvaccinated or inoculated with Covaxin (which WHO has not yet approved). However, President Biden’s new proclamation does not clarify this. Hence, be advised to check with the US Embassy or consulate that granted the NIE approval to you.
I am an unvaccinated US citizen. I am traveling to India for a week due to an emergency. Will I be able to travel back after November 8, given my non-vaccination status?
Being a US citizen, you will be able to travel back, regardless of your vaccination status. As per the new rules for travel and entry into the US, you will have to take a COVID-19 viral test within 24 hours prior to your scheduled return flight from India. Most labs in India deliver COVID-19 test results within 48-72 hours of the sample collection. That’s why CDC recommends that you carry a US-authorized proctored self-test kit to be used prior to your return travel from India. The self-test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test with Emergency Use Authorization from FDA. The testing procedure must include a tele-health service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test that provides real-time supervision remotely through an audio and video connection. Please be advised to check with the India-bound airline and the Indian Embassy whether you can bring a US-authorized self-test kit to India.
I have a valid US visitor visa and proof of vaccination (Covishield). Can I travel to USA via Europe once the travel restrictions are revoked with effect from NOV 8?
After November 8, 2021, you can travel to the US via Europe. However, major European airlines such as British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic may continue to restrict onboarding of Indian passport holders whose final destination is beyond Europe. Maybe, these airlines lift the restriction on or after NOV 8.