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Immigration Update: COVID Vaccine Requirements For Foreign Travelers

Monday, November 8, 2021Written by: Sarah E. Wilkerson

Beginning November 8, 2021, foreign travel to the U.S. will be severely impacted by COVID-19 vaccination mandates implemented by the Biden Administration. In addition to the new vaccination requirements, anyone traveling to the U.S., including noncitizens, lawful permanent residents, and U.S. citizens, must comply with specific COVID-19 testing procedures before they may enter the U.S. Therefore, those who wish to enter the U.S. by land, air, or sea should carefully consider these mandates before making any definite travel plans.

Entry Through Air Travel

The Biden Administration issued a proclamation in October outlining the new COVID-19 vaccine mandates for certain noncitizens who intend to fly to the U.S. Beginning November 8, 2021, all foreign travelers seeking to enter the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa via air travel must provide proof of being fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as well as a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a plane to the U.S. Though U.S. citizens and nationals, lawful permanent residents, and individuals traveling to the U.S. on immigrant visas are currently not required to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination status before entry, they must still comply with the COVID-19 testing mandates.


Exceptions to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for air passengers extend to the following categories:

  • children under age 18;
  • individuals with medical contraindications to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine;
  • individuals traveling with non-tourist visas from countries with limited vaccine availability;
  • members of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as their spouses and children;
  • participants in certain COVID-19 vaccination clinical trials;
  • individuals granted an exception to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons;
  • certain airline and sea crew members; and
  • specific foreign diplomats or government officials. 

It is important to note that Biden's proclamation did not include any moral or religious exceptions.

Those falling within any above-mentioned exceptions may have additional requirements imposed upon them, including supplementary testing for COVID-19, wearing masks, or arrangements for post-arrival self-quarantine or self-isolation. Further, individuals who are not fully vaccinated must agree to become fully vaccinated within 60 days of entering the U.S., with very few exceptions.

Entry Through a Land Border or Ferry Terminal

In addition to the Biden proclamation for air travel, the DHS recently released updates for entry through a land border or ferry terminal that will go into effect on November 8, 2021. Non-essential foreign travelers who wish to enter the U.S. through a border or terminal must provide proof of being fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before being admitted to the U.S. Additionally, such travelers must be prepared to attest to their travel plans and vaccination status during border inspection. While a negative COVID-19 test is required for air travelers, there are currently no testing requirements for individuals entering through a land border or ferry terminal.

Though essential foreign travelers may currently enter without such vaccination records, this will change in January 2022 when all noncitizens will be required to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination status before entry to the U.S.

Because it is likely that travel will surge after the previous restrictions have been lifted, the lines for entering the U.S. are expected to significantly increase. Therefore, travelers should plan for longer wait times when attempting to cross the U.S. land border.

It can be difficult to keep up with the constant changing of COVID-19 mandates and their impact on the ability to travel. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our office at (318) 255-9299 if you have any questions or concerns about potential travel restrictions.

Tags: Immigration

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