The Biden administration on Monday released the specifics of its plan to allow the return of foreign travelers to the United States.
While adult visitors will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and will need to be tested for the virus before boarding a plane to the United States, visitors younger than 18 will not have to be fully vaccinated, but will still need to take a COVID-19 test unless they are 2 or younger, the White House said in a statement. The new travel policy takes effect on Nov. 8.
Other exemptions from the vaccination requirement include people who took part in COVID-19 clinical trials, who had severe allergic reactions to the vaccines, or who are from a country where COVID-19 vaccines are not widely available.
That includes about 50 countries, and people from those countries may only enter the United States with a government letter authorizing travel for a compelling reason and not just for tourism, a senior administration official told the Associated Press.
Airlines will be required to collect contact information on passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to help with contact tracing in the event that it is necessary.
The United States will accept any vaccine approved for regular or emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. Those include the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. Mixing-and-matching of approved vaccines will be allowed, the AP reported.
The new policy comes as the Biden administration eases restrictions that ban non-essential travel from several dozen countries — most of Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India and Iran, the AP said.
Foreign travelers who arrive in the United States will be checked for compliance, an administration official told the AP, and airlines that don’t enforce the requirements could be fined up to nearly $35,000 per violation.
The main trade group for the U.S. airline industry welcomed the administration’s new travel policy.
“We have seen an increase in ticket sales for international travel over the past weeks, and are eager to begin safely reuniting the countless families, friends and colleagues who have not seen each other in nearly two years, if not longer,” Airlines for America said in a statement.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on travel during the pandemic.
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