The US is set to reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travelers from dozens of countries

United Airlines passenger jets taxi with New York City as a backdrop, at Newark Liberty International Airport
United Airlines passenger jets taxi with New York City as a backdrop, at Newark Liberty International Airport
Image: Reuters/Chris Helgren
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The American holiday season ought to be filled with more cheer and plenty of teary-eyed reunions this year: The US is finally going to open its borders to international travelers from 33 countries, beginning Nov. 8.

The White House made that announcement at the end of last week, confirming that all travelers will need to be fully vaccinated. Visitors must also show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days of departure.

Who will be able to enter the US on Nov. 8?

Officials said the president would provide more detailed guidance about the border reopening—including information about “very limited exceptions” to the vaccination requirements—by the end of October.

However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already told US airlines that all vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and any approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) will be recognized by the US. That would include the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as well as double dose jabs of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca (and Covishield), and China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. (Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is not recognized by the FDA or WHO.) The same rules are expected to be applied to all international arrivals, whether at airports, land border crossings, or in US ports.

The CDC also says travelers who received mixed doses of approved vaccines would be admitted. Reuters reported that children under 18 are expected to be exempt from the requirements.

The US lags other countries in reopening

Former US president Donald Trump first began banning visitors from specific countries early in the pandemic. He included 26 European countries, as well as the UK and Ireland. The Biden administration has been criticized for upholding the same prohibitions since January, even as case counts in many European countries dropped significantly, and vaccinations rose.

As Europe and other Western countries opened their borders to travel, the US did not lift its restrictions, which stirred resentment among European leaders in particular. It was particularly vexing that the US continued to allow travel from countries where Covid-19 was still surging, including India and Brazil, while visitors from regions where infections were under control were not welcome. As of Nov. 8, the same rules for entry will apply to all admissible non-US citizens.

Brighter skies ahead for major airlines, hotels, and cruises

In recent months, the Biden administration has also faced pressure to open the borders from the travel industry. One trade group, the US Travel Association, said maintaining the restrictions through the end of 2021 would cost the domestic economy $325 billion.

″We welcome the Biden administration’s science-based approach to begin lifting the restrictions on travel to the US that were put into place at the start of the pandemic,” Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, said in a statement.

The rise of the Delta variant in late spring had dashed hopes of a return to brisk business for already long-struggling large airlines, sending share prices downwards again just as they had recovered a little. On Friday, stocks rose for airlines, hotels, and cruise lines.