U.S. to ease travel restrictions for foreign visitors who are vaccinated against Covid

Passengers wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of covid-19 arrive at Orlando International Airport. On April 30, 2021, the Transportation Security Administration extended the federal mask mandate, which was set to expire on May 11, until September 13 for all air passengers over the age of 2.

Paul Hennessy | LightRocket | Getty Images

The U.S. will ease travel restrictions for international visitors who are vaccinated against Covid-19 in November, including those from the U.K. and EU, the White House said Monday.

Noncitizens visiting the United States will have to show proof of vaccination and a negative Covid test taken within three days of departure, said Jeff Zients, who is leading the nation’s Covid response efforts for the White House.

The changes will take effect in early November, which the airline industry expects will spur holiday bookings.

“They must show proof of vaccination prior to boarding a U.S.-bound airplane,” Zients said during a press briefing.

Airlines and other travel industry groups have clamored for the U.S. to lift the restrictions for months. The Trump administration had first issued the rules, which now apply to more than 30 countries, in March 2020. President Joe Biden upheld those rules in January, shortly after taking office.

The Biden administration is also tightening rules for unvaccinated U.S. citizens returning home. They will need to test one day before departure and test again after returning.

European and British officials have lifted entry bans for U.S. and other visitors since vaccines became widely available this spring, but the Biden administration hadn’t reciprocated.

Allowing more international travelers into the U.S. would have wide-ranging impacts. A ban on much of non-U.S. citizen travel has had broad impacts on industries including airlines, retail and restaurants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also require airlines to collect and provide passenger information to aid contract tracing.

“In the coming weeks, CDC will be issuing a contact tracing order requiring airlines to collect current information for each U.S.-bound traveler, including their phone number and email address,” Zients said.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines shares rose after the White House announced an end to the travel bans, escaping a broader market sell-off. Those carriers have the most international service of U.S. airlines and will benefit the most from the change in policy.

“We applaud the Biden Administration for establishing a path to re-opening international travel to the U.S.,” Delta said in a statement.

The Atlanta-based airline said it is “optimistic this important decision will allow for the continued economic recovery both in the U.S. and abroad and the reunification of families who have been separated for more than 18 months.”

In June, the U.S., U.K., EU, Mexico and Canada announced they would form a group to study how to safely reopen international travel.

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