US air travel opens: What you need to know about the new international travel rules

Starting Nov 8, foreign air travellers to the US will be required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Starting Nov 8, foreign air travellers to the US will be required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The Biden administration's new rules requiring most foreign nationals to be vaccinated before flying to the United States take effect on Nov 8.

US President Joe Biden signed a proclamation on Monday (Oct 25) that will lift the extraordinary US travel restrictions first imposed early last year to halt the spread of Covid-19 that bar most non-US citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Britain, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

The most recent country added to the list was India in April.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday released a travel assessment tool for people planning international trips and there are extensive question and answer features for travellers.

Here are the key things to know:

- Starting Nov 8, foreign air travellers to the US will be required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the US, with limited exceptions.

- Passengers will need to show an "official source" showing vaccination status, and airlines will need to match the name and date of birth to confirm the passenger is the same person reflected on the proof of vaccination.

- CDC has said it will accept US Food and Drug Administration approved or authorised and World Health Organisation emergency-use listed vaccines.

- All travellers must produce a negative viral test result within three days prior to travel to the US. Unvaccinated US citizens and others getting exemptions must provide a negative test taken within one day before travelling.

- Children under 18 are excepted from the vaccination requirement but children between the ages of two and 17 are required to take a pre-departure test. If travelling with a fully vaccinated adult, an unvaccinated child can test three days prior to departure, but if an unvaccinated child is travelling alone or with unvaccinated adults, they will have to test within one day before departure.

- Exemptions include certain Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial participants, those with valid medical reasons for not getting vaccinated and those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons, but they will need a US government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel.

- The CDC said there are no exceptions for the vaccine requirements "for religious reasons or other moral convictions".

- Non-tourist travellers from nearly 50 countries with nationwide vaccination rates of less than 10 per cent will be exempt from the requirements but must agree within 60 days to get vaccinated under most conditions.

- Travellers must sign an attestation that they have been vaccinated and are warned that "willfully providing false or misleading information may lead to criminal fines and imprisonment."

- The Transportation Security Administration plans to issue a security directive that provides the legal basis for airlines to check vaccine records.

- The CDC also issued a Contact Tracing Order that requires all airlines flying into the US to collect and keep on hand for 30 days and disclose to the CDC if needed contact information like phone numbers, e-mail and US addresses that will allow health officials to track infections. The collection requirements take effect on Nov 8.