• Matt Hughes

Details of U.S. Vaccination Requirement for Air Travelers

Please find information related to the following four topics below:

  1. New Vaccination Requirement for Air Travelers to the United States

  2. Acceptable Proof of Vaccination

  3. Exceptions to the Vaccination Requirement

  4. Unvaccinated Travelers

1. New Vaccination Requirement for Air Travelers to the United States

Today, the U.S. Government released detailed information about the vaccination requirement for international air travelers that will go into effect for non-immigrants flying the United States after 12:01 AM, Eastern Standard Time on November 8, 2021. (This article also includes information relevant to U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents; requirements for immigrants are different).


All travelers must be vaccinated. With very few exceptions, all travelers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning November 8, 2021. At this time, vaccines approved in the United States (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen/J&J) or vaccines that are listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (AstraZeneca, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm, Sinovac) are accepted. "Fully vaccinated" generally means that it has been at least 14 days since the final dose (or single dose) of an approved vaccine or approved mix-and-match vaccination combo.


This new requirement replaces the existing regional travel restrictions. Any NIE that was approved for regional travel bans is no longer required or valid starting November 8.


Vaccinated travelers must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three (3) days prior to departure. Antigen tests or a nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) are acceptable. I recommend checking with your airline for their documentation requirements.


2. Acceptable Proof of Vaccination


Verifiable records (digital or paper): Vaccination certificate with QR code*, digital pass via Smartphone application with QR code* (e.g., United Kingdom National Health Service COVID Pass, European Union Digital COVID Certificate)


Non-verifiable paper records: Printout of COVID-19 vaccination record or a COVID-19 vaccination certificate issued at national or subnational level or by an authorized vaccine provider (e.g., the CDC vaccination card)


Non-verifiable digital records: Digital photos of vaccination card or record, downloaded vaccine record or vaccination certificate from official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider), or a mobile phone application without QR code*


* The QR code in a verifiable vaccination record links to information confirming the credential was generated from an immunization record in an official database and is protected from tampering.


All forms of proof of COVID-19 vaccination must have

  • Personal identifiers (at a minimum, full name and date of birth) that match the personal identifiers on the passenger’s passport or other travel documents

  • Name of official source issuing the record (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider)

  • Vaccine manufacturer and date(s) of vaccination


3. Exceptions to the Vaccination Requirement (be sure to read the next section, "Unvaccinated Travelers," as well!)


There are very limited exceptions. The new rules only apply to people aged 2 and older. Vaccination is not required for children under the age of 18 BUT see the information regarding unvaccinated travelers below. Certain diplomats, crew members, members of the armed forces and other unusual cases are exempted from the vaccination requirement. There are also exceptions for people traveling from countries where it is very hard to get the vaccine (unless they are traveling on a B-1 or B-2 visa).


American citizens are exempted from the requirements BUT see the information regarding unvaccinated travelers below. Vaccinated American citizens must provide a negative COVID test within three days of flying to the United States. There are no exceptions for the immediate family members of American citizens.


Vaccines are not required if there is a medical contraindication. To prove a medical contraindication, you must present a letter from a licensed physician stating that the vaccine is medically contraindicated. More information on physician letters can be found here.


4. Unvaccinated Travelers

If you qualify for an exception or if you are an unvaccinated American citizen or Legal Permanent Resident, you must show proof of a negative COVID test within one (1) day of traveling to the United States (this will likely present some logistical challenges). Unvaccinated children traveling with a vaccinated adult can take a test up to three (3) days before their flight. Unvaccinated travelers may** also be required to attest that:

  • They will be tested with a COVID-19 viral test 3–5 days after arrival in the United States, unless they have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days;

  • They will self-quarantine for a full 7 days, even if the test result to the post-arrival viral test is negative, unless they have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days; and

  • They will self-isolate if the result of the post-arrival test is positive or if they develop COVID-19 symptoms.

Based on the category of the exception, if they intend to stay in the United States for longer than 60 days they may** additionally be required to attest that:

  • They agree to be vaccinated against COVID-19; and

  • They have arranged to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States, or as soon thereafter as is medically appropriate, unless (for children) they are too young to be vaccinated.

** The way that "may" is used here leads me to believe that it is very likely these requirements will be enforced. In other words, without a medical contraindication, any non-immigrant planning to spend longer than 60 days in the United States will need to get vaccinated.



Please get in touch if you have questions.

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