Holiday Travel Winter 2022-2023 – How to Avoid a Bumpy Ride

November 10, 2022

For the many planning international travel this holiday season, it’s essential to consider COVID-19 policies worldwide, including U.S. entry policies, consular post availability for purposes of scheduling visa appointments, and local conditions in home countries and other international locations. This consideration will assure that one doesn’t experience unexpected and unanticipated travel delays or cancellations.

In addition to the standard precautions to assure that all travel documents and visas are valid to ensure safe international travel and return to the U.S., the judicious traveler will be certain to double check COVID-19 policies in destination countries, and whether one might need a U.S. visa to return to the U.S. without delay.

Considerations for the International Traveler this Holiday Season

  • Review that one meets the COVID requirements in the destination country;
  • When returning to the United States, the nonimmigrant and advance parolee applicant for admission to the U.S. adheres to health care and vaccine documentation requirements;
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommended guidance on pre-travel COVID testing can be found here; and
  • S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents are exempt from COVID-19 testing requirements and are not required to be vaccinated to board international flights.

Exceptions to the International Air Travel Vaccine Requirement for Nonimmigrant Visa Holders

Exceptions to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement include:

  • Children under the age of 18;

Specific foreign nationals with valid U.S. visas (except for B-1 or B-2 visas) who are citizens of countries with limited vaccine availability as noted by the CDC here;

  • Those who can document medical contraindications to the COVID vaccine;
  • Those issued a humanitarian or emergency exception;
  • Certain aircrew members;
  • Individuals participating in certain COVID vaccine clinical trials;
  • Sea crew members traveling with a C-1 or D nonimmigrant visa;
  • Members of the U.S. armed forces, their spouses, and their children below age 18;
  • Persons on diplomatic or official foreign government travel; and
  • Individuals whose entry to the United States would be considered in the “national interest” as determined by the U.S. government. Former national interest exceptions (NIE) are no longer valid and will no longer exempt a nonimmigrant from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Return to the U.S. by Land Border or Ferry

On January 22, 2022, non-U.S. travelers seeking to enter the U.S. from Mexico or Canada by land or ferry for all purposes are required to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.  Their attestations include verbal confirmation and proof of vaccination at the border. U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, and other U.S. nationals are not mandated to comply with the vaccination requirements and testing will no longer be conducted at the border. Children under age 18 and those with medical contraindications, among others, will also not be mandated to furnish proof of vaccination status at land borders or upon entry to the United States via ferry.

Current COVID Public Health Requirements After Reentry From Abroad

The United States does not currently have general federal quarantine guidelines but does provide guidance to international travelers here

Acceptable Vaccines –

The current list of acceptable vaccines includes

  • Janssen/ J & J
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Novavax

A list of vaccines for emergency use may be found on the CDC website here

Other Considerations for Smooth Reentry to the United States

Foreign travelers should also be certain that passports are valid for at least six months beyond expiration of any period of admission. Certain foreign countries have agreements with the U.S. government which permit passport validity to extend six months beyond the document’s expiration date.

Visas must be valid and reflect current nonimmigrant status, be unexpired and valid for the number of entries, if limited. If one must obtain a new visa for purposes of their return to the United States, best to check consular appointments and processing times in advance of any U.S. departure. 

Applicants with pending adjustment of status applications should verify their ability to travel with nonimmigrant visas, and assure that their applications for adjustment of status will not be jeopardized or inconsistent with a nonimmigrant visa entry.

The I-94 document may be downloaded after admission and return to the United States. I-94 documents might be limited to the expiration date on one’s passport, so best to assure that all travel documents are valid both prior to departure from the United States and return to the United States.

The I-94 document may be downloaded here.

In summary, to ensure safe and unhindered international travel, it is recommended to check all guidance and documents before departure and prior to planned return to the United States to be certain that no surprises arise which can interrupt much anticipated holiday plans.

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