After 20 months of waiting, the US opened its borders for international travellers on 8th November 2021. However, international travellers need to adhere to strict entry requirements including being fully vaccinated.
After nearly 20 months, the United States of America (USA) opened its doors to vaccinated international travellers on Monday, 8th November 2021, thus, welcoming thousands of visitors who were stopped from entering the country.
CNN reports have revealed that the terminals saw a 'steady stream of masked passengers', but some congestion is bound to be witnessed as the rules are established.
At a late October Travel Industry conference, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian commented that the process may be sloppy at first, leading to lines as a result of the “onslaught of travel all at once”. A Delta spokesperson commented that the flights that were scheduled for Monday were at 100% load capacity, after seeing a 450% increase in international booking, six weeks prior to the US announcing its border openings.
Another airline giant, the Lufthansa Group spoke to CNN and revealed that the 31 flights to the US that were operational on Monday were completely booked. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic commented that its flights were at 98% capacity, while Swiss Air and British Airways also confirmed high passenger volume on their flights to the US.
As per data from the aviation analytics company OAG, the number of filled seats in flights to the US from Europe this December is expected to be 67% of the December 2019 numbers.
CNN further reported that the employees and aircraft that had been sidelined as a result of the borders closures due to the pandemic were being called back by several airlines. Additional staffing issues, probably increased due to employee vaccine regulations have further complicated the operational capacity of some carriers.
Apart from airlines and carriers, the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have been short-staffed as well. Further, they faced a deadline right before Thanksgiving for the federally mandated employee vaccinations.
Therefore, increased wait times, busy border crossings from Canada and Mexico are all to be expected by CBP. Thus, patience and preparation will be key for international travellers in the coming weeks, CNN suggested.
Students planning to travel to the US must know what to expect. Continue to read to find out what you, as an international traveller, must keep in mind before travelling to the US.
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What You Need to Know When You Arrive in the US
While the US is open for all vaccinated international travellers, some state and local COVID-19 restrictions will still be applicable. For instance, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Illinois and Hawaii have mandated mask requirements while in public spaces. Further, Puerto Rico, Washington and DC mandate masks within indoor public spaces.
Cities like New York and San Francisco also mandate vaccine requirements for indoor public spaces such as restaurants. Previously, Hawaii had some of the highly restrictive entry requirements anywhere in the US. However, CNN reported that Hawaii will adhere to the new federal mandates for international air travel. Nevertheless, some capacity restrictions for public spaces still continue to be in place.
Further, the most significant influxes of international visitors will be witnessed in cities like Los Angeles, Miami and New York.
As the regulations stated, all international travellers planning to enter the US are required to be vaccinated. However, children under 18 have been exempted from the vaccination requirement. Therefore, we suggest visiting the CDC website to know more about travel restrictions and guidelines before planning your travel to the US.
As per regulations, international travellers must meet the CDC criteria for being “fully vaccinated” which states that individuals are considered full-vaccinated two weeks after receiving their 2nd dose of the 2-dose vaccines or 2 weeks after the single-dose vaccines as well. The airlines will look into this information and will be responsible for ensuring travellers are fully vaccinated before they travel.
Currently, vaccines that are FDA-approved or have been listed in the WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL) will be considered vaccinated for entry into the US. Vaccines such as:
Janssen/Johnson & Johnson;
Sinovac, are all accepted as valid vaccines for entry into the US.
CNN also reported that those with mixed doses will also be accepted for entry into the US. Additionally, those included in vaccine trials are also considered fully vaccinated.
As per current requirements, all international air travellers are required to possess a negative COVID-19 test. All air travellers ages 2 and up, irrespective of their nationality or vaccination status, are required to possess the negative COVID-19 test.
Further, vaccinated travellers are required to get the COVID-19 test within three days of their flight’s departure to the US. Select unvaccinated Americans and international travellers will be exempted from the vaccination requirement, however, they must take the test within one day of departing for the US.
Vaccinated international air travellers can provide paper or electronic copies of their vaccination and testing reports. Most airlines provide mobile apps and portals on their websites where the testing and vaccine information can be processed virtually.
However, keeping hard copies of the vaccination and testing records is a good measure to follow. Keeping all the necessary documents to prove who you are and what your vaccine and COVID-19 testing status is will be a good time-efficient, “Plan B” measure to follow.
If you have planned to enter the US from one of the countries surrounding the US, i.e. Mexico or Canada, then, the CBP and Homeland Security have suggested measures to ensure a quick and efficient manner to help you enter the country.
As per regulations, authorities encourage travellers to keep their identification and vaccination certificates ready to go. Further, travellers are also encouraged to use the CBP One App and Facial Biometrics.
While all measures to avoid long waits will be implemented, Homeland Security stated, long lines are expected in the initial days. The CBP will adjust the available resources as needed, “continuing to facilitate lawful trade and travel… [while also]... protecting the national security.”
CNN reported that the documentation can be in digital and/or paper format for proof of vaccination. Additionally, the vaccination cards need not be in English. Additional suggestions also include being prepared to attest their vaccination status and reason for travel, while also being prepared to show proof of being fully vaccinated, as per the request of a CBP officer.
Additionally, children under the age of 18, travelling with vaccinated adults do not need to adhere to the vaccination requirement. Moreover, COVID-19 tests are not mandatory for land and ferry crossings as well.
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