Skip to content

Dramatic changes for international travel begin today: 11 things you need to know

Nov. 08, 2021
9 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The much-anticipated day is finally here, as the U.S. officially welcomes back travelers on Nov. 8 from near and far after more than 18 months due to COVID-19.

“Today, after more than 18 months of pandemic-related travel restrictions, DHS is taking a critical step toward resuming normal travel,” U.S. Homeland Security secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement. “Travelers who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation are now permitted to enter the United States via our land and ferry border crossings for nonessential reasons such as visiting friends and family and engaging in tourism."

Vaccination requirements are based on a traveler's citizenship and testing requirements are determined by age.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Here are the top 10 things you need to know about traveling to the U.S. today and beyond.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Lufthansa crew members pose before a flight to Miami from Germany on Nov. 8. (Photo by Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images)

Do you need to be vaccinated to enter the US?

Proof of vaccination is only required for non-U.S. citizens over the age of 18. Travelers are considered fully vaccinated a minimum of 14 days after receiving their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — either the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine.

What vaccines are accepted?

Currently, the U.S. government accepts Food and Drug Administration-authorized and -approved vaccines in addition to those approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization. Specifically, the eight below vaccines are approved for use to come to the U.S.:

  • Pfizer
  • Moderna
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • AstraZeneca
  • Covaxin
  • Covishield
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will accept participants in a Novavax or Covavax COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) Phase 3 clinical trial, as well as those who have received two doses of a “mix and match” vaccine combination administered at least 17 days apart.

U.S. officials have not yet specified whether they will require an additional booster shot or if the time elapsed from the date of vaccination beyond the 14 days will factor into vaccine credibility, as is the case in some countries.

How can I show proof of vaccination?

Per the CDC, three types of vaccination records are accepted:

  • Digital or paper records, such as a vaccination certificate with a QR code or digital pass shown via an app. Examples of this include the U.K.'s National Health Service COVID-19 Pass or the European Union Digital COVID-19 Certificate. The QR code must link to information showing vaccine credentials generated from an official immunization record.
  • Non-verifiable paper records, such as a printed vaccination record or certificate issued by a national or subnational vaccine provider, including the CDC-issued white vaccination card.
  • Non-verifiable digital records, such as digital photos of a vaccination record or card, downloaded vaccination record/certificate from an official source (public health agency, government agency or other authorized provider) or a mobile app without a QR code.

Although U.S. citizens returning home are not required to be vaccinated, vaccinated Americans should still bring proof of vaccination to qualify for the three-day testing window, detailed below.

More information on vaccines is available from the CDC.

What must my proof of vaccination show?

Beyond proof of a full COVID-19 vaccination course outlining an approved vaccine manufacturer and dates of shots, your proof of vaccination must contain personal identifiers, including your full name and date of birth or passport number, all of which must match the personal identifiers on your accompanying official ID (either a driver's license, passport or other travel documents).

Additionally, proof should clearly state implementation by an authorized vaccine provider who issued the vaccine, such as a public health agency, government agency or other authorized provider.

How do I submit proof of vaccination?

If entering by air, U.S. airlines will collect all health documentation, including vaccine and testing proof, at the time you check in for your flight to the U.S.

Additionally, airlines will ask all international inbound travelers for contact details to be used for contract tracing while on the ground in the U.S., in conjunction with the CDC.

Most major airlines outline entry requirements on their websites and answer frequently asked questions. Be sure to check with your airline online first to ensure you have all of the necessary documentation.

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Airlines)

Is a negative COVID-19 test required to enter?

All travelers over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, are expected to take either a rapid antigen or PCR test to enter the U.S., the testing window of which is based on your vaccination status.

Vaccinated individuals can show results of a negative test taken within three days of scheduled departure to the country.

Unvaccinated travelers are subject to stricter testing requirements and therefore and must show proof of a negative test taken within one day (24 hours) of travel to the U.S. Unvaccinated travelers are also required to attest that they'll take an additional COVID-19 test within three to five days of arrival.

Depending on where you are in the U.S., COVID-19 tests are available at national pharmacies (such as Walgreens, CVS and Walmart), some grocery stores with in-house pharmacies, local pharmacies, doctor's offices, hospitals and pop-ups such as Curative, among others.

Related: New travel restrictions will require unvaccinated Americans to face additional testing

What are the vaccination requirements for children?

Travelers under the age of 18, regardless of citizenship, are exempt from vaccine requirements if entering by either land or air, but they are to adhere to the below testing requirements for air travel.

What are the testing requirements for children?

The U.S. Department of State advises that children between the ages of 2 and 17 are required to submit results of a pre-departure test to enter the country, meaning those under 2 are exempt from any testing requirements.

If you are a vaccinated adult and traveling with an unvaccinated child between the ages of 2 and 17, your child can also submit a negative test within three days as long as you are traveling together to align with the testing timeline for fully vaccinated adults.

However, unvaccinated children traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults must adhere to the one-day testing requirement.

Related: What to do now if you want your kids vaccinated ASAP for holiday travel

Are the entry requirements the same for entry by land?

People crossing the border from Mexico in San Ysidro, California, on Nov. 8. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Although the vaccination guidelines issued by the U.S. government thus far only apply to non-U.S. citizens entering the U.S. by air, officials expect the negative COVID-19 testing requirement to be issued at U.S. land borders with Mexico and Canada by January 2022.

The Department of Homeland Security says travelers by car and ferry should prepare for long lines at entry points as normal travel resumes.

"Long lines are expected in the initial days following pent-up demand, and CBP will adjust resources as needed, while continuing to facilitate lawful trade and travel and protect our national security," DHS said in a press release. "Travelers are advised to expect longer-than-normal wait times, familiarize themselves with the new guidelines and have appropriate documentation ready during a border inspection."

Children under age 18 are allowed to enter the U.S. via land so long as accompanied by a vaccinated adult, not unlike those entering by air.

Are there any vaccination exceptions?

Both the Biden administration and CDC have issued a "very limited set of exceptions from the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals," including for:

  • Children
  • Certain COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants
  • Those with "rare" medical contraindications exceptions
  • Members of the armed forces and their immediate families
  • Airline crews
  • Diplomats
  • Travelers on non-tourist visas from countries where the vaccine is not widely available.]

Related: Answering your questions about traveling to the US with kids

Will proof of vaccination be necessary within the US?

Major U.S. cities require proof of vaccination to access certain indoor spaces, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.

In Los Angeles, for example, either proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test is required for patrons 12 and older at many indoor businesses, including restaurants, malls, theaters, gyms, bars, breweries and more, in addition to an indoor mask mandate that has been in effect since this summer.

The situation is much the same in New York City, where proof of vaccination is required for those 12 and older to participate in indoor dining and entertainment and to visit indoor fitness establishments, museums and theaters, among other businesses.

Bottom line

Proof of vaccination is required for non-U.S. citizens to enter the U.S. starting Nov. 8. All travelers must submit a pre-departure test, in addition to contact details, to either airlines or CBP, depending on the point of entry. Although testing requirements apply only to entry by air, expect to see similar requirements when crossing land borders next year.

Related: Unvaccinated? Think twice before booking trips to these 5 US cities

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases