Beginning November 8, 2021, President Biden issued a proclamation requiring that all non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States by air must provide proof of vaccination against the COVID-19 virus.
Land and Sea
Beginning January 22, 2022, DHS also requires that non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the US by land or ferry must provide the same proof of COVID vaccination.
Proof of COVID vaccination
Unless you are exempt, all non-U.S. individuals traveling to the United States by any means must:
- verbally attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status;
- provide proof of a CDC-approved COVID-19 vaccination, as outlined on the CDC website;
- present a valid Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document, such as a valid passport, Trusted Traveler Program card, or Enhanced Tribal Card; and,
- be prepared to present any other relevant documents requested by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer during a border inspection.
Furthermore, the vaccination requirement applies whether you are traveling for essential or non-essential reasons.
However, these new vaccination requirements do not apply to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, or U.S. nationals.
The US Department of Homeland Security also applies a list of narrow exemptions created by the CDC for ports of entry. They are:
- Certain categories of individuals on diplomatic or official foreign government travel as specified in the CDC Order;
- Children under 18 years of age;
- Certain participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials as specified in the CDC Order;
- Individuals with medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine as specified in the CDC Order;
- Individuals issued a humanitarian or emergency exception by the Secretary of Homeland Security;
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age) as specified in the CDC Order; and
- Individuals whose entry would be in the U.S. national interest, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Curiously, DHS recites restrictions on travel by land or sea by pointing to CDC restrictions on air travel. The CDC allows an exemption for air travel by “sea” crew members traveling on a C1-D crew member visa. As such, it appears that a C1-D crew member working on a ship may arrive in the US by air, but not disembark from a ship once aboard.
Vaccination Waivers for Immigrants
These rules apply only to the COVID-19 vaccination. Consequently, waivers may be available to immigrants for other types of vaccinations for good cause.
Notably, a foreigner applying for an immigrant visa at a consular post can receive a vaccination waiver based on religious or moral grounds. This is true even for COVID. Upon issuance, immigrant visas are normally valid for 6 months. But, that visa holder cannot enter the US on the immigrant visa without a COVID vaccination waiver, at least not until the presidential and DHS orders are rescinded. Such temporary orders due to urgent, national security concerns.
Stateside Adjustment of Status
Also, those foreigners who are already in the US and who are against COVID vaccinations may apply for adjustment of status based on a vaccination waiver. Even so, it seems unwise to try and use an advance parole travel document issued as part of the adjustment application to attempt to reenter the US if you are unvaccinated. It’s best to wait until you become a lawful permanent resident green card holder in order to travel outside the US.
Call for Assistance
Consider a licensed, professional immigration legal representative before proceeding. Immigration law is large and diverse, covering many types of immigration. Government agencies have become increasingly adversarial. It helps to have our team on your side to prevent avoidable and unnecessary delays, anticipate problems, and effectively navigate your matter toward successful completion. We provide a free initial consultation for those interested in possibly working with us on case processing, and we’re happy to answer your questions.