US updates international COVID travel policy, becoming similar to Israel

The United States has announced that it will update its international travel policy, requiring the majority of incoming foreign nationals to be vaccinated, the State Department said.

The new policy will go into effect on November 8 and will apply to any incoming foreign nationals traveling to the US for nonessential reasons, such as tourism.

According to the regulations, foreign travelers wishing to enter the US will be required to show proof of vaccination status before they board a flight to the US.

Airlines will be required to verify vaccination status. Digital and paper vaccination cards, such as those provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, should be acceptable.

The only vaccines that will be accepted are those approved by the US Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization, according to a senior administration official.

 Travelers at the Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, September 6, 2021.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Travelers at the Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, September 6, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

“This policy prioritizes public health, protecting US citizens and residents, as well as those who come to visit,” the State Department said in a statement.

In addition, all travelers will be required to present a negative test before boarding their flight. Vaccinated individuals can test up to 72 hours before departure. Unvaccinated individuals – US citizens or foreigners who receive special permission to enter – will be asked to test within 24 hours of their flight.

Children under two will not need to test.

There will also be accommodations for anyone who tested positive for coronavirus within three months of travel and can show documentation to that effect.

Finally, those traveling to the US will be required to provide basic and valid contact information to airlines that can be used as needed by public health agencies in the event of an outbreak.

A series of documents that will help airlines prepare for November 8 and ensure a smooth transition to the new system will be released, the senior administration official said.

“These are strict safety protocols that follow the science and public health to enhance the safety of Americans here at home and the safety of international air travel,” the official said. “We’re talking about an important step forward in operationalizing this new system as it relates to international air travel.”

There will be limited exceptions to the vaccination requirement for noncitizens who are not immigrants, the official said. These will include children under the age of 18 and people from countries that do not have vaccines accessible and therefore less than 10% of the population is inoculated as per the WHO.

“Even in the low vaccine-availability countries, people will also need to have a compelling reason to come here,” the official said. “So, it’s just not that they’re coming here for any reason; they need to have a specific, compelling reason. So, tourist visas will not qualify for that.”

The list of qualifying countries from which people can travel without vaccination due to lack of availability should be updated roughly quarterly by the WHO. Currently, there are about 50 countries.

There also will be exemptions for people who cannot get vaccinated due to medical reasons, the official said, without providing additional details.

A similar protocol will soon apply to land borders, as well, the official added.

Read More: US updates international COVID travel policy, becoming similar to Israel

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