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Biden Administration Lifts Vaccination Requirement for Foreign Visitors

After more than 18 months of restrictions, unvaccinated foreign nationals will be permitted to enter the U.S. from May 12

by Fergus Cole

May 3, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Bernardo Ferrari / Unsplash

Foreign travelers without a Covid-19 vaccination will once again be able to visit the United States from May 12, The White House has confirmed.

Currently, foreign nationals wishing to travel to the U.S., whether for leisure or business purposes, need proof of Covid-19 vaccination to enter the country legally. The Biden administration first enforced the policy in October 2021, and unvaccinated foreigners have been banned from entering the U.S. ever since. But this will all change from midnight on May 11, when the government announced on Monday that the Covid-19 public health emergency will officially end.

“Today, we are announcing that the Administration will end the COVID-19 vaccine requirements for Federal employees, Federal contractors, and international air travelers at the end of the day on May 11, the same day that the COVID-19 public health emergency ends,” said the White House in a statement.

Photo: Courtesy of Cory Checketts / Unsplash


The decision to lift the mandate was made after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to remove the remaining Covid-19 requirements for foreign air travelers in February.

The United States remains one of the few countries worldwide still requiring proof of vaccination for foreign visitors. Canada dropped its requirement for foreign visitors to be vaccinated in October last year, while Mexico never needed evidence of immunization or a negative test. Even China, widely regarded as having some of the strictest anti-Covid restrictions in the world, dropped its vaccine requirements for foreign visitors in January.

The move to drop restrictions in the U.S. will help boost the country’s tourism sector ahead of the busy summer season and has been welcomed by the U.S. travel industry and international airlines alike.

“Today’s action to lift the vaccine requirement eases a significant entry barrier for many global travelers, moving our industry and country forward,” said Geoff Freeman, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

Photo: Courtesy of Washington-Reagan National Airport.

“However, the return of international visitors should be as efficient and secure as possible. The federal government must ensure U.S. airports and other ports of entry are appropriately staffed with Customs and Border Protection officers to meet the growing demand for entry.”

A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said: “The relaxation of the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals removes barriers for frictionless travel to the USA, our heartland for nearly 40 years. It will give a boost to transatlantic customer demand as a busy summer approaches.

“Virgin Atlantic has now resumed services to all of its 12 transatlantic destinations, including new routes to Austin and Tampa and longstanding favorites New York, Orlando, and Los Angeles, with a premium, personalized experience onboard and at the airport, delivered by our amazing people.”