White House Lifts Ban on International Travel

Alexandra Spath

The Biden administration has announced plans to lift the ban on international travel into the U.S. for foreigners who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The ban, first enacted by the Trump administration in January 2020, prevents travel from 33 countries, including members of the European Union, India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Iran. As vaccination rates increase globally, with more than six billion vaccine doses having been administered worldwide, the end of the ban after 18 months of closed borders is a step towards reopening and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. 

Starting in early November, foreign nationals will be able to enter the U.S. as long as they have proof of full vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test within three days of travel. While no quarantine period will be required upon reaching the U.S., the C.D.C. will require airlines to obtain contact information of travelers as part of a new contact tracing system to limit travel-related spread of COVID-19. 

The new regulations allow for unvaccinated Americans to travel back to the U.S. as long as they have proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of flying and test again upon landing. 

Lifting the ban will revitalize the U.S. tourism industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic. Spending from international travel decreased by 79% in 2020, leading to job and revenue loss. It will also allow families separated by international borders to reunite after a year and a half of separation. 

Opening up travel to members of the EU will serve to ease tensions between the U.S. and Europe. The travel ban is among several issues in discussion at the UN General Assembly this week, and European allies of the U.S. have long demanded a lift of the ban. Reopening transatlantic travel is hoped to improve the Biden administration’s relations with Europe. 

The new regulations are the latest of a series of legislative actions by the Biden administration to encourage vaccinations. More than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, and vaccinations are picking up pace in the EU. Travelers from countries that were not on the banned list, who currently do not need to be vaccinated to fly to the U.S., will be affected by the new legislation as well, as they too will need to be vaccinated come November in order to enter the country. 

While the new regulations allow a significant number of Europeans to resume travel to the U.S., they bar many travelers from parts of the world where vaccination rates are lower, including Africa and many parts of Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Vaccine hesitancy and lack of access in these areas will prevent large numbers of foreign nationals from entering the U.S. 

The Biden administration has provided a general outline of the updated international travel policy, but several details of the new protocols are still yet to be released. These include details of the contact tracing system and the process by which foreigners will prove that they have been vaccinated.