International arrival and departure halls have been among the sleepiest parts of U.S. airports since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020.
That’s set to change Monday when the U.S. lifts pandemic travel restrictions that have barred many international visitors since early last year, measures that have driven down revenue at hotels, retailers, restaurants and airlines.
First instated by the Trump administration and later expanded to include more countries by President Joe Biden earlier this year, the restrictions prohibited most visitors from the EU, U.K., South Africa, India, Brazil and China from flying into the U.S.
The reopening of the border to many international visitors comes with a new set of rules, such as vaccination requirements.
Airlines have reported a jump in bookings to the U.S. and expect an immediate surge in travelers, even before peak holiday periods.
United Airlines said it expects 50% more international inbound passengers on Monday from a week earlier, when it carried 20,000 people. Delta Air Lines said it expects many of its international flights on Monday to be full and strong demand in the next few weeks. Airfare-tracking site Hopper said international flight searches to the U.S. have more than quadrupled since the Biden administration in September announced it would lift the restrictions.
Airlines have brought back more international flights, though schedules are still below pre-pandemic levels. United airline will fly 69% of its 2019 international schedule next month, up from 63% this month and its trans-Atlantic schedule will be 87% restored in December. American Airlines‘ international capacity for November and December is set to be more than double that of a year ago and down 28% from 2019.
Here is what you need to know about international travel to the U.S. starting Nov. 8:
Proof of vaccination
Under the new rules, inbound non-citizens will have to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before they fly into the U.S. That means the second of a two-dose vaccine must have been completed two weeks prior to departure. Documentation can be shown as a paper certificate, a photo of the document or a digitized version. It will be reviewed by airline personnel.
Accepted vaccines are those approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and those listed for use by the World Health Organization: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covishield, Sinopharm and Sinovac.
The U.S. will also require proof of a negative Covid test from within the past three days for all vaccinated travelers. The country has required that since January for all arrivals, including U.S. citizens.
If a traveler is not vaccinated, including a U.S. citizen, the Covid test must have been taken from within one day of departure.
Both rapid antigen and PCR test results will be accepted.
Minors and other vaccine exemptions
The U.S. has outlined a number of exemptions to the new rules. Those include international travelers under the age of 18, as some countries haven’t yet authorized vaccines for children or have low vaccine availability.
International visitors over the age of 2, traveling with vaccinated adults must still show proof of a negative Covid test taken within three days of departure. If they are traveling unaccompanied they must show proof of a test taken within one day.
The U.S. is also exempting vaccination requirements for visitors from 50 countries that have low vaccine availability and vaccination rates, including much of Africa as well as Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq and Armenia.
Visitors who haven’t been vaccinated for medical reasons will need to present a letter to the airline from a medical professional. There are also limited exceptions for visitors who need to travel to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons or an emergency, which will require a State Department letter before departure.
U.S. citizens are not required to present proof of vaccination before departure. However, if they do not, they will have to show proof of a negative Covid test taken within one day, instead of three days for travelers with a Covid vaccination record.
All U.S.-bound travelers will be required to provide contact information such as e-mail, phone number and address to airlines in the case of an outbreak following arrival.