Frequently Asked Questions for Noncitizen Travelers Entering the U.S. Starting November 8

November 10, 2021 Sara Herbek

Note:  This article was originally published on Nov. 29, 2021. It was updated on Dec. 03, 2021 to provide additional requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) following new travel guidance announced by President Biden on Dec. 02, 2021.   

Dec. 03 Update: New guidance from the CDC states that beginning 12:01 AM EST on Monday, Dec. 06, 2021, all inbound travelers aged 2 and older who plan to enter the U.S. by air must either provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result (taken within 24 hours of departure) or verify recovery from infection. An antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) are both cited as sufficient tests for the protocol. This testing requirement applies to all inbound air travelers aged 2 and older, regardless of citizenship, immigration, or vaccination status. 

Individuals who have been infected by COVID-19 and recovered may present documentation of their recovery and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official clearing the individual for travel. Travelers seeking to qualify for entry based on recovery from COVID-19 should consult the full guidance from the CDC about documentation required as proof of recovery from the disease. 

Dec. 02 Update: In response to increasing concerns about the new Omicron variant circulating worldwide, President Biden has announced additional protocols for international travel. Starting next week (an exact time has not yet been announced) all inbound international travelers must get a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departure to the U.S. This requirement applies to all travelers, regardless of vaccination status and nationality.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to soon provide additional guidance confirming all travelers must show a negative result to their airline before boarding an inbound U.S. flight. Further, clarification is expected on testing for children under the age of 2, which has not been required previously.   

Additionally, all travelers must wear masks on airplanes, trains and other forms of public transportation. Masks must also be worn in transportation hubs. This requirement will remain in effect through March 18, 2022. Noncompliance will result in fines.  

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Information in this FAQ is intended to supplement information detailed in Envoy Global’s 
blog article on the official Nov. 8 U.S. travel announcement. 

Each case is unique to the employee. The details below are meant to be general and not case specific. We will periodically update this FAQ as more news becomes available. Always check with your employer and immigration counsel before traveling so they can review for special considerations. 

Nov. 29 Update: Effective Nov. 29, 2021, a new White House proclamation is temporarily banning travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries due to COVID-19. With the exception of most travelers from southern Africa, fully vaccinated travelers are still allowed to enter the U.S. at this time.  

Upcoming travel 

Q: I need to travel to the U.S. from abroad after Nov. 8. Does this news mean I can travel to the U.S. directly from this country without entry challenges? 

A: Probably. The new travel policy focuses on vaccination status. Assuming you have valid entry documentation, such as a visa or Advance Parole, you should be able to enter the U.S. if you meet the vaccination requirements.  

Q: My family needs to travel to the U.S. Are there specific vaccination considerations for children under 18? 

A: Children under 18 do not need evidence of vaccination status. However, children between age two and 18 will need proof of a negative COVID-19 test before travel. 

Vaccinated noncitizen travelers 

Q: I am vaccinated. Will my vaccine qualify given the new guidance? 

A:  Accepted vaccines are detailed in our blog post. Vaccine mixing is allowed, per the CDC. Additional help on understanding vaccination requirements is found here. 

Q: I am vaccinated. How can I provide evidence of vaccination for the new guidance? 

A: The traveler will be required to provide proof of vaccination to the airline before departure to the U.S. Specific detail on this process is found in a Department of State FAQ.  

Visa appointments 

Q: I need a new visa stamp while abroad. Does this news mean the U.S. Consulates are back to capacity and I can get an appointment in a quicker timeframe than in than past? 

A: Not necessarily. The proclamation indicates that availability of visa appointments is not specifically addressed. Visa appointment availability continues to be severely constrained worldwide. 

Travel scenarios 

Q. What exactly happens when I travel? 

A. For vaccinated travelers: 

The CDC offers a questionnaire to determine steps for specific situations here. The steps below are intended to assist with general travel planning.

  1. Before boarding a flight to the U.S., all travelers except for children under two and those recovering from COVID-19 within the last 90 days, need to take a COVID-19 test and obtain a negative result. This must happen within three days of the flight to the U.S. More details on this step can be found in the CDC website.
  2. In addition to presenting your negative COVID-19 test, non-exempted travelers will need to provide proof of vaccination to the airline before departure to the U.S. Specific detail on this process is found in a Department of State FAQ.
  3. All travelers must agree to submit to contact tracing protocols. This process would occur after entry to the U.S. The airlines will ensure current contact information is obtained before arrival in the U.S. for this potential post-flight process.
  4. Fully vaccinated travelers are recommended by the CDC to take a COVID-19 viral test three days following global travel. Unvaccinated travelers must have a COVID-19 test within one day of travel and prove negative test results before traveling. This is true unless you are recovering from COVID-19 in the last 90 days. 

Travelers must follow state and local rules following entry to an applicable location. 

B. For nonvaccinated noncitizens: 

  1. Unvaccinated noncitizens with nonimmigrant status may not travel to the U.S. unless they meet qualifications for an exception.
  2. Before boarding your flight, all travelers except for children under two or those recovering from COVID-19 within the last 90 days, need to take a COVID-19 test with a negative result. This must happen within one day in advance of the flight to the U.S. More details on this step can be found on the CDC website. Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), such as a PCR test, and antigen tests qualify.
  3. If you are exempted from the vaccination requirement in the limited applicable list, be prepared to document your exemption for the airline (check with your airline for more information). The list of countries with limited COVID-19 vaccine - which is an exemption category – is available here.
  4. Travelers must agree to submit to contact tracing protocols. This process would occur after entry to the U.S. The airlines will ensure current contact information is obtained before the flight for this potential post-flight process.
  5. Travelers are recommended by the CDC take a COVID-19 viral test three to five days following their U.S. arrival. This is true unless you are recovering from COVID-19 in the last 90 days. The CDC additionally recommends staying home for 14 days following travel

Travelers must follow state and local rules following entry to an applicable location. 

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Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Sara Herbek, who is the Managing Partner at Global Immigration Associates, P.C., one of the two independent U.S. law firms Envoy exclusively works with on the Envoy Platform (the "U.S. Law Firms").  

Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at one of the two U.S. Law Firms working with the Envoy Platform or another qualified professional. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult an Envoy global immigration service provider or another qualified representative. 

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