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U.S. Opens Borders to Vaccinated Travelers

As of November 8, foreign nationals who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation will be permitted to enter the United States via land ports of entry (POEs) and ferry terminals for non-essential reasons such as tourism. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reminds these travelers to be prepared to provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccination, as outlined on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website; and to verbally attest to their reason for travel and COVID-19 vaccination status during a border inspection.

“After more than 18 months of pandemic-related travel restrictions, DHS is taking a critical step toward resuming normal travel,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas.  “Travelers who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation are now permitted to enter the United States via our land and ferry border crossings for non-essential reasons such as visiting friends and family and engaging in tourism. DHS continues to work closely with our international partners and domestic public health experts to sustainably resume travel while protecting our communities and economic security.” 

DHS’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is working to prevent long lines at land POEs and ferry terminals as normal travel resumes.  However, long lines are expected in the initial days following pent-up demand, and CBP will adjust resources as needed, while continuing to facilitate lawful trade and travel and protect national security.  Travelers are advised to expect longer-than-normal wait times, familiarize themselves with the new guidelines, and have appropriate documentation ready during a border inspection. 

U.S. citizens are reminded to bring a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document, such as a valid U.S. passport, Trusted Traveler Program card, Enhanced Driver’s License, or Enhanced Tribal Card, when re-entering the United States and should be prepared to present a WHTI-compliant document if requested by a CBP Officer during a border inspection. Any non-citizen attempting to enter the United States through illegal means or without appropriate documentation may be subject to expulsion or removal. 

To help reduce wait times and long lines, travelers can take advantage of facial biometrics and the CBP One, which is a single portal for CBP mobile applications and services.

Also from November 8, foreign nationals boarding flights to U.S. international airports including Baltimore Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington Dulles must be fully vaccinated, and possess both proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test result for admission into the United States.

This Proclamation suspends the entry into the United States by air travel of foreign nationals who are nonimmigrants and who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Foreign national air travelers, with very limited exceptions, will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of their vaccination status to airline gate attendants before being permitted to board a flight to the United States. Fully vaccinated travelers will continue to be required to show a pre-departure negative test taken within three days of travel prior to boarding.

Unvaccinated travelers – whether U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or the small number of excepted unvaccinated foreign nationals – will now need to test within one day of departure.

CBP does not expect this vaccination verification process to affect traveler volumes in its airport facilities as it will take place prior to travelers arriving in the U.S.

The CDC has determined that only vaccines approved or authorized for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and vaccines that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared as emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines are acceptable for travel to the United States. CDC publishes a list of accepted vaccines.

Individuals will be considered fully vaccinated if it has been 14 days since they received one dose of an accepted single-dose-series COVID-19 vaccine, or 14 days since they received the second of an accepted two-dose vaccine.

Travelers should visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for vaccination proof requirements for foreign nationals, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, immigrants and air crew members.

The new travel requirements come ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday season, which is expected to boost traveler numbers at airports, ports and land borders as people travel to meet with friends and family.

The Transportation Security Administration is anticipating that security checkpoints nationwide will be busy during the holiday season, and reminds travelers that the federal requirement to wear a mask anywhere in the nation’s transportation system remains in effect through January 2022.

Learn more about the updated requirements at DHS

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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