Proof of vaccination

IMMIGRATION CORNER - Michael J. Gurfinkel - The Philippine Star

On Sept. 20, 2021, the Biden Administration announced that it is rescinding/canceling the Trump era COVID-19 travel bans and, starting in November 2021, will instead require all international travelers to the US to provide proof of vaccination before being allowed to board a flight to the US, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of travel.

Under Trump, there were “geographic” COVID-19-related travel bans for individuals from certain countries where there were high incidents of COVID-19, such as China, Iran, the Schengen Area (Europe), UK, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and India. Instead of focusing on countries, the new policy focuses on individuals, regardless of the country they travel from. Put another way, the travel ban is being lifted for fully vaccinated individuals.

Under the new policy, all international travelers (visitors, immigrants, etc.) will have to prove that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a flight to the United States. The CDC will provide guidance on which vaccines will be accepted.

There will be exceptions to the vaccination requirement such as: children, COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants and humanitarian exceptions for people traveling for an important reason and who lack access to vaccination in a timely manner. However, individuals who are exempted from the vaccine requirement may be required to be vaccinated upon arrival.

Interestingly, when asked about whether these vaccination requirements will apply to those seeking to enter the US at the border, as opposed to those arriving by plane, the White House responded, “We do not have any updates to the land border policies at this time.”

When asked if requiring vaccination would be highly inequitable or unfair, especially for countries with low vaccine access, the White House responded, “We believe that the vast majority of people who can travel internationally to the US will be able to access a vaccine.” In other words, they expect or assume that people who travel to the US have enough money and wherewithal to get vaccinated, if they were able to qualify for a visitor visa.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of changes, disruption and delays in immigration. Travel bans were merely one part of the disruption and delays, but there are other areas, such as intending immigrants being scheduled for their interviews, green card holders stuck or trapped outside the US, visitors in the US trapped and unable to return to their home country, etc.

We will continue to monitor developments and keep you updated. Also, I would invite you to subscribe to my YouTube channel, US Immigration TV, where I am also posting updates on immigration news and developments.

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