United States: COVID Travel Restrictions

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United States covid travel restrictions

United States COVID Travel Restrictions for Business Aviation

Update Oct. 25, 2021: The Biden Administration officially released new Presidential Proclamations ending the entry ban for non-U.S. nationals. Effective, Nov. 8, 2021 at midnight, fully vaccinated foreign nationals will once again be allowed to enter the United States. Note: Crew are exempt from the vaccination requirement. Our Global Regulatory Services team is currently reviewing the details of the proclamation and we will update this article. The full details of the CDC’s requirements for entry are here.

This article covers the latest United States COVID travel restrictions impacting business aviation, including testing, quarantine, and entry requirements. Ask your Universal Trip Support team for a Feasibility Guide to get detailed intelligence for your destination of interest.

Oct. 22, 2021

  • U.S. – Minor updates as we approach the Nov 8 date for new relaxed restrictions to be published.
    • The Presidential Proclamations that currently ban travel for non-U.S. nationals who have visited a banned region/country (like Europe) over the preceding 14 days are slated to expire Nov. 8. We’re now waiting for official details to be published. Until then, all restrictions below still apply.
    • On Jan. 12, 2021, the U.S. CDC issued an order requiring proof of a negative viral COVID-19 test (NAAT/PCR or antigen), or medical proof of recovery, for anyone arriving from a foreign country to the U.S. The order went into effect Jan. 26, 2021 for ALL flights, including private flight and GA aircraft. Key points:
      • Only ACTIVE crew members are EXEMPT. You can find the full definition of ACTIVE CREW and some analysis on the various exemption scenarios that we’ve been asked about on our website.
      • Passengers must show aircraft operator proof of negative result, taken with 3 days of boarding, or of recovery prior to boarding.
      • U.S. CDC Approves Home Test for Int’l Arrivals – On May 7, the CDC updated its Order to allow self-administered COVID tests (aka home tests) to qualify for int’l arrivals to the U.S. Note that the CDC has guidance on what home tests will be allowed.
      • Operators of private flights and general aviation must maintain passenger Attestations (i.e., declaration forms) for 2 years. Note: While the operator needs to see the test result, only the Attestations (which can be captured digitally) must be kept on file. We are providing free pre-populated Attestation forms on Universal-managed trips in-bound to the U.S. Ask us for details.
      • The CDC’s website has more information on the order, including the official announcement and FAQs.
      • Note FAA NOTAM reinforcing the CDC order.
    • U.S. Presidential Proclamations remain in place: On April 30, the U.S. travel restrictions were extended to include India. All non-U.S. travelers who have recently been in Brazil, India, South Africa, and most EU countries, including the UK and Ireland, are restricted.
      • CBP has published a bulletin announcing a variety of U.S. visa holders have been granted blanket national interest exceptions to the current entry restrictions on travelers from suspended regions. Note: B1 and B2 visas are not exempt; HOWEVER, read next bullet.
      • The U.S. State Department quietly released a buried update allowing National Interest Waivers (NIWs) to be issued to foreign crew seeking entry to the U.S. for the purposes of training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance – despite their travel history. Crew must have a B-1/B-2, B-1, or M-1 visa, or Visa Waiver Program authorization to qualify. This is a big one many in the business aviation community have been asking for. We have extensive expertise with NIWs and can assist.
      • All stops in suspended regions, overnight or just tech stops, are treated the same.
      • Entry by any non-U.S. foreign national (that includes Canadian and Mexican citizens) who has been in a suspended region over the past 14 days is HIGHLY RESTRICTED and will be denied, with few exceptions.
    • Expired U.S. Passports for Return Travel – CBP issued this bulletin announcing that U.S. citizens holding a U.S. passport that expired on or after January 1, 2020 may still be able to use their expired U.S. passport for direct return travel to the United States until December 31, 2021.
    • New U.S CBP Documentation Provided for Arrivals – Effective April 26, Part 91 arrivals into the U.S began receiving this new document [PDF] with their landing rights packages at select ports. It basically covers roles and responsibilities for both operator and CBP for int’l arrivals. NO ACTION is needed when you get this. It’s just good-to-know info to have in your back pocket.
    • Applications for signatory carrier status under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are still being processed. All U.S.-based operators (including some international companies with U.S. subsidiaries) and non-U.S. commercial operators are eligible to apply. If you are not a signatory carrier and qualify, we recommend you apply to increase your operating flexibility. We can help.
    • The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is another avenue foreign nationals can seek for entry into the U.S. and can be an effective means of entry. Allowed purposes of visit include Business, Education, Training, and Medical. Application for entry is available for the following U.S. AOEs: KLAX, KEWR, KDFW, KJFK, and KIAH, as well as through the U.S. Embassy in France and the UK. Our Global Regulatory Services team has worked out the repeatable process to apply at each of these and can provide support.
    • On June 29, the U.S. extended the validity for National Interest Exemptions (NIEs) for travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, S. Africa, the Schengen Area, UK, Ireland, and India by 12 months. Details here.
    • The U.S. STEP Program is an important risk mitigation program that U.S. nationals should be using on every international trip, especially now with COVID. When the first wave hit and we saw the massive wave of lockdowns, this program helped get people on the U.S. Embassy’s evacuation list to return home. It has a whole host of other benefits like if you lose your passport or have medical issues, if there is a terrorist incident or civil unrest, etc. Our Global Regulatory Services team offers an optional, turnkey STEP Registration Service for your trips with us.
    • Any operator entering the U.S. from the south should be taking advantage of the CBP’s Border Overflight Exemption (BOE) program to avoid having to make an extra stop at the first designated AOE when returning home. A BOE is good for 2 years, and it greatly increases your operational flexibility. We can take care of this for you.
    • Non-U.S. charter (non-scheduled commercial) operators flying to/from the U.S. with less than 12 flights per year MUST have a DOT Part 375 Ops Permit and/or Special Authorization. We can assist.
    • Advise passengers and crew to continue maintaining a 14-day travel history log of the countries, states, and cities they visit. This is critical for both travel into the U.S., within it, and abroad.
    • Hawaii – Travelers who have been vaccinated in the United States, may enter Hawaii without a negative COVID-19 test. International travelers still require a COVID test at one of Hawaii’s approved testing providersAdditional easing on local restrictions expected as vaccination numbers rise. Be prepared to provide proof of vaccination or a COVID test to enter some establishments depending on which island and county you visit.
      • Oahu now requiring proof of vaccination to enter most indoor establishments. Read online.
      • Maui now requiring proof of vaccination to dine indoors.
    • Puerto Rico – No pre-testing required for full-vaccinated travelers from the U.S. See details at www.travelsafe.pr.gov or www.viajaseguro.pr.gov. Proof of negative COVID test required to avoid quarantine. Crew are exempt.
    • USVI – Proof of negative COVID test result required for travelers from the mainland U.S. Visit the USVI Travel Screening Portal and fill out the info requested in advance. Additional information and testing requirements available on https://usviupdate.com/. Our preferred ground handler at TIST, Standard Aviation, has parking availability and can provide air transfers to neighboring Caribbean islands.
    • Alaska – Alaska’s travel mandates and orders are now just travel advisories. Full entry details online.

General Info

  • Effective Nov. 8, The U.S. government plans to lift the country’s existing COVID-19-related ban on travel by nonresident foreign nationals entering from the 26 Schengen Area European nations, as well as the U.K., Ireland, India, South Africa, Brazil, Iran, and China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau). Additionally, as of the same date, international travelers from all destinations, including those that are not currently under restrictions, will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Only vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted, i.e. Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca/Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.
  • Some states/territories such as Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico may have their own requirements.
  • Moreover, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S. through the country’s land and maritime borders with Canada and Mexico for nonessential purposes starting Nov. 8. Persons crossing these borders for essential reasons will be required to be fully vaccinated effective January 2022.
  • Until the new directives enter into effect on Nov. 8, only US citizens and permanent residents, as well as their spouses and certain other primary family members, are exempt from the ban on travel from the aforementioned 33 countries; diplomats and airline employees are also exempt. Students, academics, journalists, and others traveling for essential purposes from the Schengen Area, the U.K., or Ireland may qualify for national interest exceptions but must apply through U.S. diplomatic offices.
  • US Authorities have extended the ground border closures with Canada and Mexico to all nonessential travel through 21 Oct 21.
  • All U.S. Presidential Proclamations REMAIN IN EFFECT
  • January 21, 2021 White house Briefing, White House Proclamation ​URL: ​https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/21/executive-order-promoting-covid-19-safety-in-domestic-and-international-travel/
  • All travelers aged two years or older, including U.S. citizens and residents, regardless of vaccination status, must present a negative result from a COVID-19 PCR or antigen test taken no more than three days before departure for the country; alternatively, travelers can present proof of having recovered from COVID-19 within the previous 90 days. Airlines must deny travel to those who do not present either of these documents.
  • April 30, 2021 White House Briefing, White House Proclamation URL: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/04/30/a-proclamation-on-the-suspension-of-entry-as-nonimmigrants-of-certain-additional-persons-who-pose-a-risk-of-transmitting-coronavirus-disease-2019/
  • ​The CDC continuously updates the risk level of countries, due to reduction in COVID-19 cases, concerning entering into the USA. Please see the latest country risk level on the CDC web site: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/map-and-travel-notices.html

All travelers arriving in the USA from any foreign country must show proof of:

  1. A negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 calendar days preceding the flight
  2. Written or electronic document of recovery from COVID-19 after previous SARS-CoV-2 infection in the form of a positive viral result and a letter from a licensed health care provider or public health official stating that the passenger has been cleared for travel (Documentation of Recovery).
  3. This order applies to ALL flights, including private flight and general aviation aircraft (charter).
  4. Active Crew members are EXEMPT
  5. Passengers must show aircraft operator proof of Negative Result prior to boarding.
  6. Passengers must provide an attestation letter that confirms the information provided is true.
  7. Operators of private flights and general aviation must maintain records for 2 years.
  8. If a international trip is shorter than 3 days, a viral test taken in the United States can be used to fulfill the requirements of the order as long at the specimen was taken no more than three days before the return flight to the US departs. If the return travel is delayed longer than 3 days after the test, the passenger will need to be retested before the return flight. 
  9. Diplomats and other visa holders are not exempt from this order. 
  10. Quarantine: (Recommendations only)
  • Recommendation only-With a valid COVID test, self-quarantine for 7 days after travel.
  • Recommendation only -Without a test: self-quarantine for 10 days after travel. 
  • With a full vaccine, there is no recommendation for self-quarantine.

​​National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations 9984 (China), 9992 (Iran), 10143 (Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa) for K and Immigrant Visa Holders April 13, 2021 CLP@dhs.gov

  • On April 8, 2021, the Department of State granted blanket national interest exceptions under Section 2 of Presidential Proclamations 9984 (China), 9992 (Iran), and 10143 (Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Brazil, and Republic of South Africa) to non-citizens traveling to the United States as immigrant visa (IV) holders and fiancé (K) non-immigrant visa holders.
  • Effective immediately, in accordance with this guidance, all immigrant visa (regardless of class) and K-1, K-2, K-3 and K-4 visa holders may seek entry to the United States; however, other ineligibility grounds may apply in individual cases.
  • The exception for immigrant visas applies to all categories of immigrant visas.
  • This includes family-based visas, employment and investment-based visas, diversity visas, special immigrant visas, and all other immigrant visa categories.
  • The exception for fiancé visas applies to all fiancés of U.S. citizens and their dependents. This includes all K1-K4 visa categories.
  • Immigrant and K visa holders who were physically present in China, Iran, Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil or South Africa during the preceding 14 days may travel to the United States while these Proclamations are in effect. Immigrant and K visa holders subject to these Proclamations have been granted a national interest exception to travel and can be boarded without contacting U.S. Customs and Border Protection as long as all admissibility and document requirements are met.
  • Sections 271 and 273(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provide that it is unlawful for commercial carriers to transport improperly documented noncitizens to the United States. Carriers that transport noncitizens without valid documentation may be subject to a carrier fine for each noncitizen brought to the United States.
  • Carriers are advised to take measures to ensure compliance with the terms of these Proclamations. Any questions concerning the scope or implementation of any Presidential Proclamation related to travel, including the authorization for any noncitizen to board an aircraft or otherwise travel to the United States to seek admission, should be directed to the appropriate Regional Carrier Liaison Group (RCLG) or other designated CBP official for adjudication prior to aircraft departure.

RCLG                SERVICE AREA                 PHONE NUMBER

Honolulu            Asia, Pacific Rim               808-237-4632

Miami               Latin America, Caribbean       305-874-5444

New York            Europe, Africa, Mid-East        718-553-1783

​Additionally, officials advise individuals in the US to follow the recommendations associated with the designated risk level for their intended destination, as follows:

  • Level 4 – Very High: Avoid all travel
  • Level 3 – High: Avoid nonessential travel
  • Level 2 – Moderate: Those at higher risk of severe illness should avoid nonessential travel
  • Level 1 – Low: No limitations to travel

Recommendations for travelers entering the US also change depending on the risk level of the country they departed. Authorities advise those traveling from destinations categorized at risk levels 4, 3, or 2 to get tested within three to five days upon arrival in the US, and for unvaccinated travelers to stay at home for seven days or to stay at home for 10 days upon arrival if they do not get tested.

To view the CDC Travel Level for travelers from other countries, use the following link: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/noticescovid19

Useful Links: 

Please contact your Universal Team for additional specifics.​​​  


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