On January 20, 2022, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security updated its travel guide to require all foreign travelers (except U.S. residents) to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination when seeking entry into the U.S. via ports of entry and ferry. terminals. The new guide extends existing COVID-19 travel requirements and establishes similar COVID-19 vaccination requirements for non-US travelers seeking entry into the United States by both air and land.
Vaccination requirements: Air and land
With limited exceptionsall foreign nationals (except US residents) must now be fully vaccinated to travel to the United States by air, land, or ferry terminal. Travelers are required to present proof of vaccination before entry. According to the guidelines of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), acceptable proof of vaccination includes: (1) a vaccination certificate with QR code or digital passport via smartphone app with QR code; (2) a printout of the COVID-19 vaccination record or certificate; or (3) digital photos of the traveler’s vaccination card, registration or certificate. Travelers seeking entry must also certify their COVID-19 vaccination status. Air travelers must also complete one passenger certificate form.
Test requirements: Air
All passengers traveling to the United States by air must present proof of a negative COVID-19 virus test. CDC recommend that this test is not taken more than one day before the flight to the United States, regardless of vaccination status. A person who has recently recovered from COVID-19 can present a positive COVID-19 viral test result from no more than ninety days before the departure of his or her flight, as well as a letter issued by an authorized health care provider documenting improvement from COVID -19. Children under the age of two are not required to submit COVID-19 viral test results.
Travelers seeking entry into the United States by land or ferry ports are not required to provide evidence of negative COVID-19 testing or evidence of improvement.
Current guidance includes limited exemptions for unvaccinated non-immigrant visa holders seeking entry into the United States by air, land, rail, or ferry entry. These exceptions include, but are not limited to, the following persons:
children under 18 years of age;
certain participants in COVID-19 vaccine trials;
those with medical contraindications to COVID-19 vaccines;
those who need to travel for emergencies or humanitarian reasons (with a letter issued by the US government confirming the urgent need to travel);
those who have passports issued by a foreign country with limited availability of COVID-19 vaccines (as determined by the CDC) and a non-immigrant visa that is not a B-1 or B-2 visa; and
those whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Transport or the Secretary of Homeland Security (or their designated persons).
The CDC provides one complete list of vaccine exceptions.
Key information on the exemption for medical contraindication
A person with a medical contraindication to the COVID-19 vaccine may obtain an exemption that allows travel to the United States by air or land if he or she can present a signed letter from a licensed physician documenting a medical contraindication to receiving a COVID -19 vaccine.
What is a medical contraindication?
National Library of Medicine defines “contraindication“as” a specific situation where a drug, procedure, or surgery should not be used because it may be harmful to the person. “
Documentation requirements for requesting exemption from medical contraindication
A person seeking a medical contraindication should obtain a letter from a licensed physician. The letter must:
be signed and dated on official letterhead containing the name, address and telephone number of the authorized doctor who signed the letter;
clearly state that the traveler has a contraindication to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine;
state the name of the COVID-19 vaccine and the medical condition causing the contraindication;
contain sufficient personally identifiable information consistent with the traveler’s passport or other travel documents to confirm that the traveler is the person referred to in the letter; and
include personally identifiable information with the traveler’s full name and at least one other identifier, such as the traveler’s date of birth or passport number.
Travelers may notice that:
Current guidelines do not allow objections to vaccination based on religious or moral beliefs to qualify for an exemption under President’s Proclamation 10294“promoting the safe resumption of global travel during the COVID-19 pandemic,” and the CDC’s order implementation of the Executive Order.
Airlines and aircraft operators may, in their sole discretion, require a third party medical consultation for persons requesting an exemption based on a medical contraindication to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Air carriers or aircraft operators must also confirm that the passenger has provided a covered individual attestation.
© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC, All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 55