US prepares to lift COVID-19 international travel ban: The new rules

Travel into the United States is set to get considerably easier, with the White House confirming its bans on foreign visitors is set to be relaxed – though with no compromise on vaccination status. Currently, those wanting to visit the US must navigate a complicated tangle of rules and restrictions, which has left America a no-go zone for many.

That has proved to be increasingly a point of contention between the US and its international counterparts. Europe, for example, eased its restrictions on travel for American passport holders, who typically must show a recent negative COVID-19 test and proof of vaccination to enter a European country.

At the same time, though, US borders have been effectively closed to European travelers. That's included those without an American passport but who might have family in the US, and who have been unable to visit them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much in the same way as the EU has managed entry, the US will be focusing on vaccination status as a means to control the spread of coronavirus. Inbound international air passengers will need to show evidence that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter the country. They'll also need to show the results of a negative COVID-19 test – administered within three days of their flight – before they're permitted onboard.

Unvaccinated foreign nationals will not be allowed into the US. Unvaccinated American citizens, however, will: they will need to show a negative COVID-19 test from one day before their flight to the US, and then a subsequent negative test once they're back in the country.

However, CNN reports, there'll be no requirement for quarantine restrictions for the fully-vaccinated once they're inside the US.

Instead, the CDC will require airlines to collect information from travelers – including contact details such as a phone number and email address – so that they can be alerted should a positive coronavirus case be identified within 30 days of their travel. The contact tracing order is similar to policies operated by countries elsewhere in the world. US nationals returning to American currently are requested to fill in a CDC form confirming they have not been exposed to COVID-19 as far as they are aware.

It'll be up to the CDC to decide what counts as "fully vaccinated," given in some cases other countries have been using different medications to immunize their populations. That, and other logistical decisions, will be made over the next month or so. According to Jeff Zients, White House Covid-19 response coordinator, the new travel policies won't come into effect until early November. That, he suggested, was to give both agencies and airlines "time to prepare" for the new protocols as the border restrictions eased.