It’s almost here – the date that many people around the world have been waiting for for 20 months, especially for those that have loved ones in the US. That date is November 8 and the significance of it is that the US is lifting their travel ban that has been in place since March of 2020. If you are one of the many flying to the US after that, here is what you need to know.
What to Know About Traveling to the US on November 8 and Later
Link: US State Department
If you are in a majority of the countries of the world, you may be wondering how this could possibly affect you since you have likely been able to travel to the US in the past many months. Well, for those in the UK, Europe, China and elsewhere, it means that they can now travel to the US once again. And, for those in the rest of the world, listen up because this affects you as well.
In the last 20 months, US citizens and Legal Permanent Residents have been able to travel back and forth to the US, regardless of vaccination status. This will not change – US citizens and LPRs will continue to be able to fly to the US without proof of vaccination. However, those travelers will need a negative PCR or rapid antigen test taken one day before the departure of their flight to the US.
Who Needs to Be Fully Vaccinated?
But, for all non-US citizens or LPRs, you must be fully vaccinated. What does that mean, exactly, and are there exceptions?
To be “fully vaccinated” means that you must have proof of vaccination of having received a full series of doses of one of the following vaccines:
- Janssen/Johnson&Johnson (for this vaccine, only a single dose is required)
What Does “Fully Vaccinated” Mean?
Furthermore, to count as “fully vaccinated” it must be at least 14 full days since the last required dose of the vaccine, before you board your flight to the US. That means that, in order to fly to the US on November 8, your last required dose would need to have been administered on October 25.
What Do You Need as Proof of Vaccine?
For proof of vaccine (which you will need to show at check-in for your flight to the US and for the actual flight to the US), you need to have a digital or paper record that shows the following:
- Personal identifiers (at a minimum, full name and date of birth) that match the personal identifiers on the passenger’s passport or other travel documents
- Name of official source issuing the record (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider)
- Vaccine manufacturer and date(s) of vaccination
For digital passes, the UK NHS COVID Pass is accepted as is the EU Digital COVID Certificate.
Exemptions from the Required Vaccination to Enter the US
As I already wrote, US citizens are not required to be vaccinated to return to the US. In addition, children under the age of 18 are also exempted from being vaccinated to travel to the US. Finally, if you have a medical reason to not be vaccinated, those will be approved on a case-by-case basis and you should contact the US Embassy in your country for more information.
Testing Requirements to Travel to the US
For anyone vaccinated (including US citizens), you only need to have a negative PCR or rapid antigen test that was taken 3 days before the flight to the US. This is the same as it has been for citizens since January of 2021 and this applies to children under the age of 18 traveling with parents who are both vaccinated.
For any US citizen or LPR that is not vaccinated, you need to have a negative PCR or rapid antigen test that is taken the day before your flight to the US. If this is you and you are traveling with children, they will also need to have a test taken in the same timeframe.
This will likely require some careful planning if you are connecting from one airport to another to fly to the US. Many countries still require a negative test to even fly so if you are connecting, you will need to make sure you get the test before your flight from your departure point that also satisfies the requirement of being within day before the flight to the US.
When Will You Have Your Documents Checked?
If you have an itinerary that connects to a flight that flies to the US, that first flight at check-in will be the first place that you need to show your documents. Be aware that lines are getting longer, especially as more people are flying in various countries so plan accordingly.
Also, you will be required to show your documents again before you board the flight to the US. Even if you already have your tickets, you will still need to show those documents before boarding the flight so make sure you plan for this on your connection.
Since flights to the US also have increased screening at many airports at the gate, expect this process to take you longer on November 8 and after! I have flown between the US and Europe probably 6 times since March of 2020 and each flight from Europe only had like 30-50 people onboard. Expect that to change, especially as it gets later into November and December, and get to the gate as soon as possible to make sure you get your documents checked and approved.
Airlines have said they have seen bookings go way up from Europe to the US so these flights will start filling up.
Who Will This Affect the Most?
While there are many in Europe/UK/China that are looking forward to reconnecting with loved ones in the US, this actually will not impact them the most. They are used to not being able to fly to the US. At the same time, airlines flying from these countries to the US are already used to checking documents (negative test results and letter of attestation).
This will likely impact all other countries who have been able to have their citizens travel to the US in the last months. This is because all of these citizens will now need to have proof of vaccination and those airlines serving those countries will need to have new checks and systems put in place.
If you are departing from one of those countries, make sure you get to the airport with plenty of time.
Expect long lines and possibly some hiccups in the early days of no travel bans to the US. I will be flying from Europe to the US early next week so I can report on things like waiting lines, new processes, and more. If you have any questions for my follow-up posts, let me know!