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The US has reopened its borders but what are the travel rules?

Travellers wear face coverings in the line for the south security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport on Aug. 24, 2021, in Denver.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/David Zalubowski

From today, adults arriving into the United States will need to be fully vaccinated, with only limited exceptions, and all travellers will need to show a negative COVID-19 test result.

Vaccinated travellers will need to show a negative test result taken within 72 hours of arriving in the US. Unvaccinated travellers will need to show a negative test result taken within 24 hours of arrival.

Children under 18 will not be required to be fully vaccinated because of delays in making them eligible for vaccines in many places. But they will still need to show a negative test result. Children under 2 are exempt from this.

Airlines are required to collect contact information for all passengers, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not, to enable contact tracing.

Official guidance on US travel restrictions is available here.

Which vaccines does the US government accept?

The US will accept any vaccine approved for regular or emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organisation. This includes Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. Mixed doses of approved shots are accepted.

Who is exempt from vaccination rules?

People who participated in COVID-19 clinical trials, had severe allergic reactions to the vaccines, or are from a country where shots are not widely available are exempt.

That latter category covers people from countries with vaccination rates below 10% of adults. They may be admitted to the US with a government letter authorising travel for a compelling reason. There are estimated to be about 50 countries to which these rules would apply.

How will the rules be enforced?

Airlines will be required to verify vaccine records and match them against identity information. Airlines that don't enforce the requirements could be subject to penalties of up to nearly $35,000 (€30,000) per violation.

Quarantine officers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will spot-check passengers arriving into the US for compliance.

What has been the industry's reaction to the new rules?

The main trade group for the US airline industry praised the new rules. “We have seen an increase in ticket sales for international travel over the past weeks, and are eager to begin safely reuniting the countless families, friends, and colleagues who have not seen each other in nearly two years, if not longer,” Airlines for America said in a statement.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel-industry analyst in San Francisco, said the lifting of country-specific restrictions will help, but it will be tempered by the vaccination and testing requirements.

“Anyone hoping for an explosion of international inbound visitors will be disappointed,” he said. “November 8 will be the start of the international travel recovery in the US, but I don’t believe we will see a full recovery until 2023 at the earliest.”

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