White House Releases Details on Which Foreign Travelers Will Be Allowed Into the U.S. Without a COVID Vaccine

There are some exceptions — and they're not just for kids.

The White House on Monday detailed guidelines for the resumption of international travel, laying out exceptions to its vaccine requirement just weeks before the United States plans to reopen its borders to the world.

The U.S. will start welcoming fully vaccinated foreign citizens on Nov. 8 for non-essential travel, but there will be a few notable exceptions to the vaccine mandate: Children under 18 years old, foreign travelers coming from countries with a less than 10% total vaccination rate due to a lack of vaccine availability, and travelers who have had a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine will all be exempt, a senior White House administration official told reporters on Monday.

Currently, there are about 50 countries that fit the description of having a less than 10% vaccination rate due to lack of availability of shots. Unvaccinated travelers from those countries will need a "specific, compelling reason" to enter the U.S., according to the White House.

"These are strict safety protocols that follow the science and public health to enhance the safety of Americans here at home and the safety of international air travel," the official said.

For vaccinated foreign travelers, the U.S. will accept six COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization. Both digital and paper certificates will be allowed.

Happy girl traveling and coloring in the plane wearing a facemask
Hispanolistic/Getty Images

Airlines will be responsible for verifying travelers' vaccine status before boarding a flight. This is in line with what carriers do now in verifying a person's negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of their departure, which vaccinated travelers — including U.S. citizens — will continue to be required to provide.

All unvaccinated air travelers, including U.S. citizens, will now be required to show proof of a negative test taken within one day of boarding a flight, the official said. Children under 2 years old are exempt from testing and "accommodations" will be made for people who tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days and recovered.

In addition to checking documents, airlines will be required to collect contact information from all passengers.

The detailed guidelines come weeks after the U.S. first said it would begin welcoming international travelers in September.

The U.S. will also plan to open its land border with Canada and Mexico to non-essential travel on Nov. 8 for the first time since March 2020. A White House official on Monday said land border requirements will be similar to those for air travel.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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