The White House will open up travel to the United States to visitors from Europe and select other countries, ending a policy that has been in place for almost 18 months.
The travel restrictions will end sometime in early November, allowing fully vaccinated visitors into the country from the European Union, United Kingdom, China, India, Ireland, South Africa, and Brazil. Those arriving in the U.S. will also have to show proof of a negative COVID test prior to boarding their flight.
Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus coordinator, told CNN the November date was chosen to allow airlines and agencies time to prepare for the changes.
Fully vaccinated travelers and Americans returning to the country will need a negative test within 72 hours of their flight. Unvaccinated Americans returning home will be “subject to stricter testing requirements,” Zients said, although full details were not yet completed. It will include a negative test within 1 day of departure and an additional test upon their return to the United States.
The rules will also involve airlines keeping contact tracing information for all passengers for at least 30 days.
“We will move to this much stricter global system, so we will have a consistent approach across all countries. It will require foreign nationals to be vaccinated, to prove they’re vaccinated, and then to go through the testing and contact tracing regiments,” Zients told NBC News.
The change in policy comes about a month after European Union members began putting stricter regulations on Americans traveling to its nations, with several banning all unvaccinated visitors. It also comes amid a dustup among France and the United States over a security deal the White House entered into last week with the United Kingdom and Australia.
A State Department official told The Guardian that neither played a role in the decision.
“This is really driven by the science of COVID, and as more people are being vaccinated around the world, we of course want people to be able to travel more freely,” said Erica Barks-Ruggles, an official with the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
Final details on the new rules will be coming soon, officials said, including what qualifies as fully vaccinated and which brands of the vaccine are accepted. An official starting date will also be forthcoming, Zients said, though early November is the target.
The policy only applies to air travel, he added, noting land border crossing regulations between Canada and Mexico are unchanged.