Updated 9 November 2021
The US is one of the most popular holiday destinations loved by all and visited by hundreds of thousands of vacation seekers every year. However, the pandemic induced closure of travel had briefly halted tourism. Thankfully, the land of the free has now reopened for travellers, putting an end to travel restrictions lasting over 21 months.
So what are the latest travel rules and regulations to enter the country? Who are eligible to enter the US right now? What about testing and quarantine? Keep reading to find answers to all your questions regarding the reopening of America.
The US reopens for international travellers
At air, land and seaports of entry, and across destinations nationwide, the U.S. travel industry will welcome all vaccinated international visitors back to the United States after months of pandemic-related border restrictions beginning Monday (November 8), a long-awaited milestone that marks the rebuilding of international inbound travel.
The United States has reopened its borders to vaccinated international travellers, ending a 21-month travel ban. Fully vaccinated travellers from 33 countries can now enter the US without needing to quarantine, provided they have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test.
If you are looking to travel to the United States, here are a few things you should keep in mind prior to travelling.
Who can enter the US?
If you are a non-U.S. citizen, non-U.S. immigrant (not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or travelling to the United States on an immigrant visa), you must be fully vaccinated to travel to the United States by plane.
Non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. immigrants exempted from this requirement are as follows:
- 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
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age)
- Sea crew members travelling 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)
Travellers who belong to one of the aforementioned exemption groups must carry appropriate documents confirming the respective exemption status. In addition, a Passenger Attestation must be completed and carried.
Vaccination is not mandatory for U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or U.S. lawful permanent residents.
You are considered fully vaccinated if:
- 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose COVID-19 vaccine.
- 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series COVID-19 vaccine; or
- 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an “active” (not placebo) COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S.-based AstraZeneca or Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trials
- 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 plan to travel to the United States by air, you will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status) beforehand. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.
- For fully vaccinated travellers, the test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 3 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country if they show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- For partially vaccinated travellers, the test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 1 day before the flight’s departure from a foreign country if they do not show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- If you recovered from a documented COVID-19 infection within the past 90 days (regardless of vaccination status), you do not need to get a test 3-5 days after travel.
Passengers must be tested with a viral test that could be either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Rapid tests are also acceptable as long as they are viral tests. This includes:
- reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)
- reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP)
- transcription-mediated amplification (TMA)
- nicking enzyme amplification reaction (NEAR)
- helicase-dependent amplification (HDA)
The test used must be authorized for use by the relevant national authority to detect SARS-CoV-2 in the country where the test is administered.
The test result must be written documentation, either on printed paper or as an electronic copy. It must be authorized for use by the relevant national authority to detect SARS-CoV-2 in the country where the test is administered.
Quarantine rules vary depending on your vaccination status. If you are fully vaccinated, you need not quarantine, but you should:
- Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel. If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
- Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
Travellers who are not fully vaccinated must:
- Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel and stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.
- Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
- If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
- If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
Generally, a citizen of any foreign country (with the exception of 39 visa-waiver countries) who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence.
Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily
- for business (visa category B-1)
- for tourism (visa category B-2)
- or for a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).
Here is a quick recap of a few things you should keep in mind while travelling to the US:
- Get your proof of vaccination ready.
- Have proper testing documentation.
- Provide contact information to airlines before boarding, for contact tracing.
- Wear your masks at all times. Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required in indoor areas of public transportation and in U.S. transportation hubs (including on airplanes).
- If you are not fully vaccinated and allowed to travel to the United States by air through an exception, get tested and stay in quarantine accordingly.
- If you are fully vaccinated, get tested.
- Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not. Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.