https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/20/us-to-ease-travel-restrictions-for-foreign-visitors-who-are-vaccinated-against-covid.html

  • The Biden administration will require foreign nationals to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the U.S.
  • The new plan will end broad bans on most noncitizens from entering the U.S. from the EU, U.K. and other countries.
  • Airlines have urged the Biden administration to lift the rules, which have hurt demand for international travel.

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.

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

“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 effects 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. By early afternoon, Delta and United were down slightly but less than the S&P 500’s 2.4% drop. American’s stock was up 1%. Those carriers have the most international service of U.S. airlines and will benefit the most from the change in policy.

There will be few exemptions to the vaccination requirements for foreign visitors, according to a person familiar with the White House’s strategy, but full details have not yet been released.

The airlines cheered the Biden administration’s decision, which will open up those carriers to customers who have been restricted from flying to the U.S. since early 2020.

U.S. airlines have been strong advocates for a stringent, consistent policy and are eager to safely reunite the countless families, friends and colleagues who have not seen each other in nearly two years, if not longer,” Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America, the lobbying group for the largest U.S. carriers, said in a statement.

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.

Monday’s announcement came after the peak summer travel season but it could mean stronger demand for end-of-year holiday trips. Airlines have been using some of their biggest planes, normally reserved for international trips, for domestic routes, a trend that could quickly change if demand from abroad rises with the new rules.

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