Formal Declaration on the End of COVID Bans/National Interest Exemption Requirements, Implementation of Vaccine Requirement

On October 25, President Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation that officially eliminates the current COVID-19 regional travel bans in favor of a new COVID-19 vaccination requirement. The new policy applies to all nonimmigrants traveling to the U.S. by air as of November 8, 2021


This is welcome news for those restricted under the travel bans – most nonimmigrants form the UK, Ireland, Schengen Europe, China, India, Brazil and Iran.  Upon acceptable proof of vaccination – defined by the CDC as receiving a vaccine on the FDA or WHO lists (currently Janssen/J&J, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm, and Sinovac) with two doses administered at least 17 days apart and with the last dose administered 14 days or more before travel (acceptable vaccines can be mixed and matched).


For those not restricted from travel from ban countries: US citizens and permanent residents, nonimmigrants with certain qualifying relationships to citizens or permanent residents, etc., the new policy does bring somewhat stricter scrutiny for those unable to show acceptable proof of vaccination.


All travelers still have the requirement of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the three days before departure for the US.  However, unvaccinated travelers – even if US citizens or permanent residents will now be required to show a negative COVID test taken within one day of departure for the US.


There remain certain exemptions available – most notably for children under 18. There are also exemptions for diplomats and US military personnel, those with demonstrable medical contraindications to the vaccine (as permitted by the CDC), and those from counties with extremely low vaccination availability (less than 10% total vaccination rate and this doesn’t apply to B-1/B-2 visitors).  There is still a National Interest Exemption available, but no exemption based on religious or moral objection to the vaccine currently exists.


We expect this this policy will be further refined, with acceptable vaccines and tests, and low-vaccine-penetration countries changing over time. As vaccination for children becomes available, the exemption for under-18 children may change as well.