Fully vaccinated foreign travelers started entering the U.S. on Monday, ending roughly 18 months of restrictions put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reopening, which comes ahead of the holiday season, is a major development for the travel industry, which has lost billions of dollars while the country’s borders were shuttered.
“After nearly two years of restrictions, Monday begins in earnest the return of international travel, when long-separated families and friends can safely reunite, travelers can explore this amazing country, and the U.S. is able to reconnect with the global community,” U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow said in a statement. “It is a monumental day for travelers, for the communities and businesses that rely on international visitation, and for the U.S. economy overall.”
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The Biden administration in September announced that restrictions on over 30 countries would be relaxed in “early November.” Last month, officials said that both international air travel and land travel for fully vaccinated travelers would be allowed starting Nov. 8.
Foreign travelers will have to show proof of vaccination before boarding a flight to the U.S. and provide a negative coronavirus test result taken within three days of the flight. They will not need to quarantine upon arrival.
Some unvaccinated travelers will be allowed in, including people under the age of 18 and those who are traveling from countries that have a vaccination rate of less than 10% on non-tourist visas will also not be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to fly into the U.S.
One White House official said that the exemptions make up a “very, very small number of actual travelers to the U.S.”
While the U.S. relaxes its restrictions, its daily coronavirus cases remain elevated at an average of over 70,000 new infections and more than 1,000 deaths each day. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said that Europe is back at the epicenter of the pandemic.