New U.S. COVID-19 Rules for International Travelers Will Start in November

Masked travelers going through airport customs check with passports.

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Citizens of other countries will need to be vaccinated if they want to enter the United States.

The Biden administration recently announced that entry rules for international travelers are changing. Although it hasn't specified an exact date yet, this will happen sometime in early November.

Most notably, it's eliminating travel bans that have been in place for most of the COVID-19 pandemic. In their place will be a requirement that all foreign nationals are fully vaccinated to enter the United States. This is similar to rules many other countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, have put into place.

Unvaccinated U.S. citizens can still enter the country, but they'll have stricter entry requirements. Here's a breakdown of the new U.S. entry rules and what they mean for travelers.

New COVID-19 rules for U.S. citizens

For fully-vaccinated U.S. citizens, entry requirements haven't changed. They'll need to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure when returning to the United States.

Unvaccinated U.S. citizens will also need to provide a negative COVID-19 test, but it will now need to be within 24 hours of departure. They'll also need to provide proof that they've purchased a viral test to take after arrival.

It will be a tight window for unvaccinated travelers. Getting a test within 24 hours of departure doesn't provide much time, and any issue could result in missing a flight.

Sweeping changes for citizens of other countries

The biggest update is that the United States is doing away with a complicated system of travel restrictions. It will be lifting the travel ban that applies to certain areas, including the European Union, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.

Instead, the new rule for citizens of foreign countries is to be fully vaccinated. They also need to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. Unvaccinated foreign nationals will not be allowed to enter the United States.

The good news about this policy change is that it simplifies U.S. entry requirements. It also eliminates the need for a workaround that sprung up from the travel ban.

Foreign nationals from banned countries had been spending 14 days in a country that wasn't on the banned list (Mexico was a popular choice). Then, they'd enter the United States from that country. Under the new policy, this wouldn't work and isn't necessary for vaccinated travelers.

What are the vaccination requirements?

You're considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your final COVID-19 vaccine dose. That's the second dose of a two-shot vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of a single-shot vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson.

Valid vaccines are those approved for emergency use by either the World Health Organization or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. While this includes U.S. and Chinese vaccines, it excludes Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. That will likely be an issue for Russian travelers who want to visit the United States.

Rules are unclear for green card and visa holders

Press Secretary Jen Psaki didn't have information on how the new policy affects unvaccinated green card and visa holders.

Under the current rules, these travelers would be able to enter the United States. It's unclear whether they will still be able to enter the country under the same rules as unvaccinated citizens or if they'll need to be fully vaccinated.

How to make international travel easier

If you're planning to travel outside the United States, the best way to make re-entry easier is to get vaccinated. You'll have three days before your return to get a negative COVID-19 test, compared to just one if you're unvaccinated. You also won't need to buy a viral test to take after arriving to the United States.

In case you run into any issues before or during your trip, such as a positive COVID-19 test, you may want to get travel insurance. This type of protection is complimentary with some credit cards, but make sure you review the policy to find out exactly what it covers.

We don't know everything about these new COVID-19 rules yet or exactly when in November they start, but more clarity should be coming soon.

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