US travel restrictions for international visitors: Which Covid-19 vaccines are accepted? Are there exceptions?

Here is a guide from EL PAÍS on the new requirements that will come into force on November 8

Antonia Laborde
Viajes a EE UU
A masked member of the cabin crew on an American Airlines flight.LM Otero (AP)

After 19 months, the United States will lift its coronavirus travel restrictions for international visitors. Under the new rules, which come into effect on November 8, travelers will be allowed to enter the country if they meet certain health requirements. The US administration of President Joe Biden on Monday released more details about these rules so that international visitors can organize their trips and avoid any unwelcome surprises at the boarding gate. The new travel policy will favor tourists from the European Union, the United Kingdom, China, India and Brazil – all of whom have been banned from entering the US up until now due to the pandemic. But it will negatively affect visitors from countries that have been administering a Covid-19 vaccine that is not approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

ls it mandatory to be vaccinated against Covid-19?

Yes. Before traveling, international visitors must present their airline with a paper or digital certificate that shows they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Visitors are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they have received a single-shot Janssen vaccine or the second dose of the other approved vaccines. Travelers must also provide a negative Covid-19 test result taken no more than three days before departure. (Click here to read the CDC advice on which tests are accepted.)

Are there exceptions?

Yes. Travelers under the age of 18 and those from countries where the vaccination coverage is below 10% due to vaccine shortages will be able to enter the United States without being fully immunized. Nearly 50 countries currently have a vaccination rate below this level, according to the WHO, which is updating the list. The US government clarified on Monday that visitors in the latter category must have a “specific and convincing” reason to enter the country. In this case, the visitor will not have to present proof of vaccination, but will have to show a negative Covid-19 virus test taken one day before departure, a rule that does not apply to children under the age of two.

Are there exceptions for health reasons?

Yes. The United States will allow unvaccinated adults to enter the country if they cannot be immunized due to medical conditions, such as allergies. Visitors who are traveling for emergency or humanitarian reasons, such as patients in need of life-saving treatment, will also be exempt.

Is any Covid-19 vaccine accepted?

No. Only the vaccines authorized by the FDA or the WHO are accepted: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen, AstraZeneca-Oxford, Sinopharm and Sinovac. This rule affects the hundreds of millions of people in countries such as India, Russia, Mexico and Argentina, who have received other vaccines such as Sputnik V.

Is an ESTA needed?

Yes. Travelers must request an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before booking their flight. This form, which collects information on a passenger’s medical history and possible criminal record, is required by the US National Security Agency. The digital travel authorization for tourists and those traveling for business can be requested online and applies to trips that last fewer than 90 days. It is valid for two years, unless the passenger’s passport expires, in which case a new document is needed.

What are the rules for US citizens who are not vaccinated?

US citizens returning from abroad who are not fully vaccinated must present a negative Covid-19 test that has been taken one day before departure, as well as documentation that proves they have bought a Covid-19 test to take after their arrival.

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