NEWS

U.S. Lifting Travel Ban for Fully Vaccinated Travelers From 33 Countries

A young person wearing a mask sitting on a rolling suitcase in the middle of an empty airport terminal.

Anna Shvets/Pexels

Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. government has announced that it will lift a nearly two-year travel ban for vaccinated travelers from 33 countries, including China, Brazil, South Africa, and more.
  • Travelers must test negative for COVID within three days of departure. Americans returning to the country must test negative within one day of arriving. 
  • Infectious disease experts say that the lift should not be considered a “turn” of the pandemic and that travelers should still travel with COVID-19 safety precautions in mind.

Starting on November 8, the U.S. government will lift the travel ban for some travelers, ending a 21-month long restriction that prevented international travelers from entering the counter.

The travel ban was implemented with the intention of curbing the spread of COVID, especially the highly contagious Delta variant. Travelers countries such as China, India, South Africa, Iran, Brazil, and a number of European nations, were barred from entering the U.S. 

Social isolation was an unfortunate byproduct of those measures. When the news of the travel ban lift was circulated, many people rejoiced. For some people overseas, it means that they will finally be able to reunite with loved ones after a nearly two-year separation.

However, because the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over, there are some rules in place for people looking to come to the U.S.

Requirements

There are two requirements for travelers coming to the U.S. after the travel ban lifts. Travelers must be fully vaccinated with a World Health Organization (WHO)-approved vaccine and test negative for COVID before they will be allowed to enter the country.

Vaccination

As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s interim public health recommendations for fully vaccinated individuals, you are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second COVID-19 dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer and Moderna)
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson)

According to the CDC, people will also be considered fully vaccinated after they have received two "mix-and-match" doses of vaccines on the WHO’s approved list.

Bojana Beric-Stojsic, PhD, MD, associate professor of public health and program director of the Master of Public Health program at Farleigh Dickinson University, tells Verywell that it should not matter which vaccines are combined, because "each vaccine is providing immunity and protection" against COVID.

COVID Testing

Along with vaccination, travelers will also be required to get tested for COVID. Only people that test negative for COVID within three days of departure will be allowed to enter the country.

The same applies to Americans who will be returning to the states. But those who are unvaccinated will be required to test negative within one day of departure or arrival.

“I think it is a good idea for both land and air travel to the U.S. to be permitted to vaccinate persons who tested negative within 72 hours before travel,” says Beric-Stojsic, adding that the reason for this is because there is now more data about COVID-19, including its symptoms and spread; the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, and the best ways to mitigate outbreaks.

While the lifting of the travel ban "might be a sign that the pandemic is getting under control," Beric-Stojsic "would not call it the major turn in the pandemic, yet."

Are the Requirements Enough?

Vaccines and negative tests have helped curb COVID transmission, but Beric-Stojsic says that a regular cadence of checking vaccine and COVID status at border control points will be necessary moving forward.

“As long as the airline companies and border control points are following the policy–checking the vaccination status and proof of negative tests for travelers–we should be safe,” says Beric-Stojsic. “All the other variants seem to be less invasive.” 

Karen L. Edwards, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, Irvine, tells Verywell that monitoring should also be a consistent effort. 

“We do need to monitor for the emergence of new variants that may be able to evade the current vaccines," says Edwards. "However, as of now, the vaccines are very effective against the most common variants that are in circulation."

Vaccines Work

Research has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines protect against variants, including Alpha and Delta. For example, a recent study showed that two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines were 93.7% effective against Alpha and 88% effective against Delta.

Still, Beric-Stojsic and Edwards recommend erring on the side of caution because there are still so many unknowns. Preliminary data has shown that mixing and matching vaccines can amplify immune responses, but the duration of protection is less clear.

Edward says that "we still need more data" but that "as long as people are fully vaccinated using an approved vaccine, risks should be within reasonable limits."

Impact of the Ban on Travelers 

People around the world felt the effects of the ban; whether it meant that they were apart from family and friends or had to change travel plans. Some people, such as healthcare workers, were dispatched to help as the pandemic took hold and have been waiting a long time to be reunited with loved ones.

When the ban was in place, some people were able to continue to travel because they qualified for the National Interest Exception (NIE). However, public health workers traveling to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic or to continue ongoing research were not automatically considered for the NIE. Instead, these workers had to apply for it.

Even though there's reason to be relieved and excited about the travel ban being lifted, if COVID-19 has shown the world anything, it’s that it's highly unpredictable. That's why experts continue to stress that the best protection against contracting and spreading the virus is getting vaccinated.

For those traveling as well as those still at home, Beric-Stojsic reminds us of the steps that we can all take to stay safe: "Get vaccinated, wear masks indoors, isolate at the first sign of the disease, get tested, and consult with a physician in case of a positive test."

What This Means For You

Starting November 8, 2021, people who are fully vaccinated with a World Health Organization-approved vaccine and a negative COVID-19 test may travel to the U.S.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

Was this page helpful?
4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People. Updated October 15, 2021. 

  2. Lopez Bernal J, Andrews N, Gower C, et al. Effectiveness of Covid-19 Vaccines against the B.1.617.2 (Delta) Variant. N Engl J Med. 2021;385(7):585-594. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2108891

  3. Shaw RH, Stuart A, Greenland M, et al. Heterologous prime-boost COVID-19 vaccination: initial reactogenicity data. Lancet. 2021;397(10289):2043-2046. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01115-6

  4. The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. COVID-19 Travel Restrictions and Exemptions. Updated September 15, 2021.