The Biden Administration has officially announced that Trump-era travel bans will be withdrawn as of Monday November 8, 2021 for fully vaccinated international travelers seeking to enter the United States. As a result of COVID-19 related restrictions, international travelers from Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Iran, Brazil, China, India and the Schengen area of Europe have been prohibited from entering the United States for nearly two years. Finally, on Monday November 8th citizens of these countries will be allowed to enter the United States so long as they are fully vaccinated and have a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their flight. All FDA approved vaccines will be accepted and the Administration is expected to provide more information regarding what limited exceptions to the vaccination requirement will be allowed, for example, for children unable to receive a vaccination. Ending these travel restrictions is a welcome change that will allow for tourism, family reunification and employment-related global travel that has been significantly hindered for the past two years.
The Biden administration has announced that starting in November 2021 (although no exact date has been announced), the border restrictions at the U.S./Canadian & U.S./Mexican borders will be lifted for fully vaccinated travelers. Unvaccinated travelers will continue to be banned from crossing the borders with Mexico or Canada. Those who were never banned from traveling across the land borders, including essential workers, commercial drivers and students, will also need to show proof of vaccination starting in January 2022.
Those entering at the Mexico or Canada borders will be questioned by Customs and Border Protection officers about their vaccination status before being allowed to cross. The officers will have the discretion to send travelers to secondary screenings to have their documents checked. The decision on the land borders was made in part to coincide with the reopening to fully vaccinated foreign air travelers (although no formal announcement of this change has been made yet). While those traveling by air will need to show both proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States, there will be no testing requirement for those crossing the land border.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers people fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s. Those who have received vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as AstraZeneca’s, would also be considered fully vaccinated (a standard one senior official said would probably be applied to those crossing the land border). Officials added that the C.D.C. was still discussing whether foreigners crossing from Canada or Mexico with two doses from different vaccines could enter.
The decision to lift the restrictions on air travel has been celebrated by business leaders overseas and in the United States. Travel spending dropped nearly in half to about $600 billion in 2020 from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group.
On September 30, 2021, USCIS issued a memo outlining the Biden administration’s new immigration enforcement policies. The memo makes it clear that ICE agents are to prioritize the detention or deportation of those suspected of terrorism or pose a national threat to the U.S. Undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes or are recent arrivals (entered the U.S. after November 1, 2020) are also among the priority list for ICE.
After the policy goes into effect on November 29, 2021, ICE agents will not detain undocumented immigrations merely because of their immigration status. Instead, ICE agents will use their limited resources and discretion to pursue undocumented immigrants who may be a threat to border security, public safety, and national security. Undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for an extended period of time and can show they satisfy any of the enumerated mitigating factors are not a priority for deportation. While this policy may be a sigh of relief for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., they are still living in limbo while they wait for a path to work authorization, legal status, and citizenship.