By John Flett
U.S. Outlines Policy for ‘Safe Resumption of Global Travel’
The White House has released details on new travel policies applicable for international travel ahead of the relaxation of restrictions from 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time on Nov. 8. In an announcement titled, “A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” President Biden stated that decisions to curb the spread of the virus would involve “science-based social health measures.” Aligning with other regions such as the European Union and the United Kingdom, President Biden acknowledged that the policy would rely ‘primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the U.S.
In effect, “unvaccinated noncitizen nonimmigrants” would be barred from entering the U.S. “except in limited circumstances.” The circumstances whereby those who were unvaccinated would be permitted to enter would be determined by the country the individual was travelling from. The U.S. government acknowledged that not all countries have an advanced vaccination program and therefore citizens from those countries with a vaccination rate of less than 10% would be subject to additional testing.
Those non-citizens seeking to visit the U.S. from other countries would be required to be fully vaccinated with vaccines approved by the Federal Drug Administration or those designated for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO). Travelers would also need to undertake a Covid-19 test that meets the U.S. requirements in the three days prior to the flight departure.
For U.S. citizens and permanent residents returning to the country the same rules would apply for vaccinated individuals but those unvaccinated would need to supply a negative test taken the day before travel. However, the policy does allow for exemptions to the requirement for both citizens and non-citizens in certain special circumstances. These cases include those who are too young to receive a vaccination or who may be participants in trials for vaccines that fall out of the definition.
The Washington Post reported that the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group that represents a range of companies in the tourism industry including airlines, said the policy “provides much-needed clarity.” The task of ensuring air passengers meet the requirements of the policy will lie with airlines and Delta Air Lines chief executive officer Ed Bastian stated that initial adherence is “going to be a bit sloppy at first” and warned of possible delays for travellers.
Section 5 of the proclamation sets out the terms by which the policy would be reviewed, stating, “The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, as circumstances warrant and no more than 60 days after the date of this proclamation and by the final day of each calendar month thereafter, recommend whether the President should continue, modify, or terminate this proclamation.”