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The US reopens to international travelers on November 8 — what you need to know

Oct. 15, 2021
5 min read
USA, New York State, New York City, Aerial view of city with Statue of Liberty at sunset
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Today, the United States announced that it will officially reopen to fully vaccinated travelers on Nov. 8, following the Sep. 20 announcement that the Biden administration would welcome back these individuals sometime in "early November."

Although we now have a confirmed date of Nov. 8, some questions remain regarding acceptable proof of vaccinations and what the entire process will look like. Here's what we know so far about the U.S. reopening.

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The United States is officially reopening on Nov. 8

On Oct. 15, the White House announced its plan to reopen U.S. borders to fully vaccinated international travelers by both land and air on Nov. 8, which the Biden administration said was "putting in place a global international travel policy that is guided by public health, stringent, and consistent."

This is good news for anxious travelers, including Europeans who have eagerly awaited confirmation to go ahead and book travel. British Airways, the European airline with the most flights to the United States, has already seen a huge uplift in new bookings to the U.S. The carrier is even bringing its largest aircraft — the Airbus A380 — out of storage after 18 months to serve U.S. destinations in December, including Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX).

Which vaccines will be accepted — and how?

Details are expected prior to Nov. 8 regarding what specific vaccines will be accepted for entry to the U.S. — along with the specific types of proof required. For now, we know that all those approved and authorized by the FDA as well as those that have been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for Emergency Use Listing (EUL) will be accepted for air travel. This includes the following:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • AstraZeneca-SK Bio
  • Serum Institute of India

It is not yet known whether other vaccines, such as the Chinese Sinovac or Russian Sputnik V vaccines, will be added to the list.

Unlike the EU Digital COVID Certificate, which seamlessly allows European Union citizens and residents to produce a formal vaccine certificate within seconds through an easy-to-use app, the U.S. has not yet produced a similar digital process to show proof of vaccination.

At this point, we still do not know whether foreign paper vaccine cards or a photocopy of your vaccination record will be accepted for entry.

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This needs to be set before the first European can enter.

Related: Some countries no longer accept paper CDC vaccine cards. Here’s how you can prove vaccination status

Will each state have the same entry requirements?

Another issue is ensuring a consistent nationwide approach to the entry of Europeans. Although local restrictions vary from state to state and city to city, you should expect to show vaccination proof to board a plane to the U.S., regardless of your final destination within the country.

Some states are still taking a very strict approach to issues like mask-wearing, vaccination certificates and indoor capacity limits. This includes cities such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles — where proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test is required to enter most indoor spaces like restaurants and bars.

As a result, you will need to verify specific COVID-19 protocols of each city and/or state you intend to visit. That said, since travel is currently restricted to those who are fully vaccinated, proof of inoculation should suffice and trump any testing protocols — which are usually reserved for those who are unvaccinated.

It's also worth noting that traveling within the U.S. will almost certainly be easier than doing so across the European continent. Virtually every single country in Europe has slightly different entry requirements, and there are almost as many countries in Europe as there are states in the U.S.

For example, did you know that even if you are fully vaccinated, to enter Italy you still need to provide a negative antigen/lateral flow test, but entering Spain requires no test? This kind of inconsistency can be very frustrating, but it shouldn't be replicated in the U.S.

Related: The US requires a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days to get in the country. But what if your flight is delayed?

Will testing be required?

All travelers to the U.S., including those fully vaccinated, will still be required to show results of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure for the U.S.

Similar testing requirements have remained in place in the U.S. since January 2021 for all incoming travelers to the U.S., including American citizens. Anyone boarding a flight is required to present the results of a negative nucleic acid amplification or antigen test taken within three days of scheduled departure to the United States.

Bottom line

Fully vaccinated Europeans have finally received the long-awaited confirmation of the first date they can cross the Atlantic to the United States after an 18-month ban and we now know that is less than a month away on Nov. 8. Although more details are to come, fully vaccinated travelers can feel confident in booking travel plans to the U.S.

Additional reporting by Caroline Tanner

Featured image by Getty Images/Tetra images RF
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