New US travel rules will favor vaccinated international travelers; here’s what to know

(CNN) — Another bit of welcome news for travelers clamoring to get into the United States came Tuesday with the announcement that land borders with Canada and Mexico will reopen to fully vaccinated visitors in November.

Both measures are due to go into effect in November, although no specific dates have been announced.

The plans both loosen and tighten existing rules, depending on the country an international traveler is arriving from and their vaccination status.

Here’s what we know so far about what the new policies will mean:

Visitors coming from Mexico and Canada can soon enter by land and ferry

Land and ferry ports of entry will soon be open to tourism, friends and family visits and other nonessential travel, provided the visitors are fully vaccinated. There will be no testing requirement, senior administration officials said.

That is the first phase of the new policy, which is slated to go into effect in November.

Those traveling for essential reasons — students and truck drivers, for example — will still be allowed to cross the borders, regardless of their vaccination status, until early January 2022. At that point, a vaccination requirement will go into effect for all inbound foreign travelers arriving by land and ferry.

Currently, air travel from Mexico and Canada into the United States is allowed, with proof of a negative Covid-19 test. Things will get more stringent for foreign arrivals in November, when a vaccination requirement for all international air travelers is set to be implemented.

The rules for unvaccinated children are still unclear

The Department of Homeland Security’s announcement about Mexico and Canada land borders did not address children, many of whom are not eligible for vaccinations.

Air travel rules for unvaccinated children are also unclear, although unvaccinated Americans will still be allowed to travel into the US via air, with more stringent testing.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated on September 20 that those rules “at this point, would obviously apply to children as well.”

Whether the same rules would apply to unvaccinated children from other countries is not clear. CNN has asked the Department of Homeland Security for clarification.

The door is finally opening for people in countries affected by travel bans

Travel bans put in place early in the pandemic by presidential proclamations have barred foreign nationals arriving from China, Iran, Europe’s Schengen area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and India.

For the first time in more than a year in many cases, vaccinated foreign nationals who have been in those countries in the 14 days before entering the United States will soon be allowed in with proof of vaccination and a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days of their flight.

Unvaccinated travelers from other countries will no longer be allowed

The new rules slated for November will require adult foreign nationals to provide proof of vaccination and a negative Covid-19 test result taken within three days of their flight.

So the US door seems to be closing for unvaccinated travelers from other countries.

As mentioned above, unvaccinated travelers crossing into the US from Canada and Mexico via land or ferry for essential reasons will be allowed until January, when the vaccination requirement is set to apply for all inbound foreign nationals.

Unvaccinated US citizens and permanent residents will still be allowed in

Unvaccinated Americans are the exception, at least for air travel.

They will be “subject to stricter testing requirements,” including a test within one day of their flight’s departure for the United States and an additional test when they return, Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said when he announced the new international air travel rules on September 20.

The announcement about Mexico and Canada land borders on October 12 did not specifically address unvaccinated Americans, but the vaccination requirement is directed at “inbound foreign national travelers.”

The CDC defines the meaning of ‘fully vaccinated’

The CDC has provided guidance on what it means to be “fully vaccinated.”

Matt Rourke/AP

People are considered “fully vaccinated” by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine.

Some vaccines not yet approved for use in the US will be accepted for travel.

“Last week, to help them prepare their systems, we informed airlines that the vaccines that are FDA authorized/approved or listed for emergency use by WHO will meet the criteria for travel to the US,” the CDC said in a statement. “CDC will release additional guidance and information as the travel requirements are finalized later this month.”

The agency did not respond to questions specific to land borders or mix-and-match vaccinations (receiving a dose of two different vaccines), which Canada and a number of other countries offered.

All international air travelers will be required to provide information for contact tracing

The CDC is set to issue a contact tracing order that “will require airlines to collect comprehensive contact information for every passenger coming to the United States and to provide that information promptly to the CDC, upon request, to follow up with travelers who have been exposed to Covid-19 variants or other pathogens,” Psaki said on September 20.

The agency has not provided additional details about that order yet.

Americans can go to Canada and Mexico now

Canada recently opened up its land border, as well as access by air, to vaccinated international travelers.

Mexico has allowed foreign arrivals by air throughout the pandemic without testing or proof of vaccination.

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