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COVID-19 Vaccination Guidance for International Air Travelers Effective June 12, 2022

Labor & Employment Tim D'Arduini, Lynn O'Brien, Ryan Patterson

Summary

On June 12, 2022, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued amended guidance allowing air travelers departing from a foreign country to enter the United States without first presenting a negative COVID-19 test. Previous per-country restrictions limiting travel to the United States from certain countries have also been rescinded. Importantly, the COVID-19 vaccination requirement prior to entry to the U.S. via air travel remains in place for non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. immigrants entering the United States.

Background

On Monday, October 25, 2021, the President issued a Proclamation to suspend and limit entry into the United States for non-U.S. citizens who are nonimmigrants (“covered individuals”) such as those in H-1B or L-1 status, seeking to enter the United States by air travel who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. CDC then issued an Amended "Order Implementing Presidential Proclamation on Advancing Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic” to implement the President’s direction. As part of this guidance, the White House rescinded its policies implemented under INA § 212(f), which restricted travel to the United States from China, India, the Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, Iran, and South Africa.

As of June 12, 2022, all air passengers (including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and non-immigrants) are no longer required to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentary evidence of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight to enter the United States.

Below is updated guidance on frequently asked questions (FAQs) that your business and employees may have regarding the current travel-related COVID-19 testing and vaccination policies. This new CDC information may also be accessed here:

What are the COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements when traveling to the United States under the government’s policy?

Under the current policy, travelers to the United States are not required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to transiting to the United States.

Further, the CDC states that foreign nationals traveling to the United States by air will be required to:

  • Show proof of full vaccination prior to boarding the airplane.
  • Provide airlines with comprehensive contact information so the CDC can implement contact tracing measures pursuant to the CDC’s anticipated Contact Tracing Order.

Which vaccines will be accepted?

The White House looks to CDC guidance to decide which vaccines will be accepted. You can find the list of accepted COVID-19 Vaccines here. Per the CDC, you are considered fully vaccinated when:

  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart

If you do not meet these requirements, you are NOT considered fully vaccinated. Please note that a booster dose is not required to meet the CDC's definition of fully vaccinated.

Does the vaccination policy apply to U.S. nationals traveling to the United States?

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are not required to be fully vaccinated prior to boarding a plane departing for the United States. Additionally, they are no longer required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding a plane departing for the United States. Please note:

  • The CDC continues to strongly recommend against air travel by Americans who are not fully vaccinated; however, all travelers who return to the United States will be required to, prior to boarding an airplane, provide airlines with comprehensive contact information so the CDC can implement contact tracing measures.

Are there any exceptions to the vaccination requirement?

The CDC lists categories of noncitizen nonimmigrants that meet the criteria for an exception under the Proclamation and CDC’s Amended Order, including:

  • Persons on diplomatic or official foreign government travel
  • Children under 18 years of age
  • Persons with documented medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials
  • Persons issued a humanitarian or emergency exception
  • Persons with valid visas [excluding B-1 (business) or B-2 (tourism) visas] who are citizens of a foreign country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability (See list for updates effective June 28, 2022)
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age)
  • Sea crew members traveling with to a C-1 and D nonimmigrant visa
  • Persons whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Transportation, or Secretary of Homeland Security (or their designees)

According to the CDC, “if you travel by air to the United States under one of these exceptions, you will be required to attest that you are excepted from the requirement to present proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 based on one of the exceptions listed above.” Failure to comply with required attestations will result in negative immigration consequences, impacting your seamless work authorization and ability to remain in the United States.

What are the implications of the vaccination policy on countries with low vaccine access?

The CDC currently updates the list of foreign countries with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability every 3 months. Those travelers from one of the countries identified may be able to travel to the United States before being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Does the vaccination policy affect land travel into the United States?

The policy only relates to air travel. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that as of Thursday, April 21, 2022, foreign nationals traveling to the United States “via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination upon request.”

What if I need to travel to the United States from a restricted country?

The per-country travel restrictions related to travel to the United States from China, India, the Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, Iran, and South Africa no longer remain in effect. Travel is not restricted from these countries, but COVID-19 vaccination requirements remain for travelers from these countries.

Can we expect that foreign nationals will be able to secure visa appointments more easily following implementation of the government’s new policy?

Continued delays are expected for securing visa appointments in light of the appointment backlogs that exist at Department of State consulates throughout the globe. Foreign nationals, with the support of their employers, may be able to request expedited appointments for extraordinary circumstances, including critical business needs for travel and humanitarian reasons.

For more information on these amended travel requirements or immigration-related questions employers may have, please contact your local Quarles & Brady attorney or:

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