Persons seeking to enter the U.S. by air as nonimmigrants are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an Oct. 24, 2021, Presidential Proclamation and a CDC Order, which was amended effective Apr. 14, 2022.
This is in addition to a requirement that air passengers ages 2 or older, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, must show a negative result of a COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID before they board a flight to the U.S.
Covered Nonimmigrants and Exceptions
A nonimmigrant refers to a person who is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is:
- traveling to the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa listed in “Nonimmigrant Visa Categories” on the U.S. Department of State’s webpage Directory of Visa Categories, as well as K nonimmigrant visa holders;
- seeking to enter with Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA);
- seeking to enter the U.S. as a nonimmigrant under the Guam-Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Visa Waiver Program; or
- seeking to enter the U.S. as a nonimmigrant in any other category exempt from the general requirement to present a nonimmigrant visa for admission (e.g., certain Canadian nationals).
Categories of noncitizen nonimmigrants that meet the criteria for an exception under the Proclamation and CDC’s Amended Order include:
- Persons on diplomatic or official foreign government travel
- Children under 18 years of age
- Persons with documented medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine
- Participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials
- Persons issued a humanitarian or emergency exception
- Persons with valid visas [excluding B-1 (business) or B-2 (tourism) visas] who are citizens of a foreign country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability (See list effective as of April 14, 2022)
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age)
- Sea crew members traveling with to a C-1 and D nonimmigrant visa
- Persons whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Transportation, or Secretary of Homeland Security (or their designees)
If you travel by air to the United States under one of these exceptions, you will be required to attest that you are excepted from the requirement to present Proof of Being Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19 based on one of the exceptions listed above. Based on the category of the exception, you may further be required to attest that:
- You will be tested with a COVID-19 viral test 3–5 days after arrival in the United States, unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days;
- You will self-quarantine for a full 5 days, even if the test result to the post-arrival viral test is negative, unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days; and
- You will self-isolate if the result of the post-arrival test is positive or if you develop COVID-19 symptoms.
Depending on the category of the exception, if you intend to stay in the United States for longer than 60 days you may additionally be required to attest that
- You agree to be vaccinated against COVID-19; and
- You have arranged to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States, or as soon thereafter as is medically appropriate.
For more information about what each exception category has to attest to, see the attestation.
A parent or other authorized person should attest on behalf of a passenger under 18 years old. An authorized person may attest on behalf of any passenger who is unable sign their own attestation (e.g., because they are too young, or because of physical or mental impairment). Children under 2 years of age do not need to complete an attestation. As required by United States federal law, all airlines or other aircraft operators will provide and collect the passenger attestation on behalf of the U.S. Government.
COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement
Approved vaccines include those listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The FDA has authorized for emergency use or approved the following vaccines:
- Comirnaty and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
- Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine
- Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine
The WHO has listed for emergency use the following vaccines:
- AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine
- Johnson and Johnson
- Vero Cell, developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co. Ltd. (北京生物制品研究所有限责任公司), a subsidiary of Sinopharm (国药集团)
- CoronaVac (克尔来福), developed by SinoVac (科兴中维生物技术有限公司)
- CanSinoBIO (康希诺) Ad5-nCOV-S (Convidencia), developed by CanSino Biologics Inc., Tianjin
The entire vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) must be completed. “Mix and match” is allowed. In other words, an individual will be considered fully vaccinated if they have received a combination of two doses of different listed vaccines.
CDC considers a person to be “fully vaccinated” 14 days after a person received:
- one dose of an accepted single-dose-series COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., Janssen/J&J);
- a second dose in a 2-dose series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine; or
- a second dose of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart.
A booster dose is not needed to meet this requirement.
Note that laboratory tests for COVID-19 immunity or evidence of prior COVID-19 infection will not be accepted in lieu of evidence of vaccination.
Note on Unapproved Chinese Vaccinations
Of the top 5 COVID vaccinations approved in China, only the 3 mentioned above have been listed by WHO for emergency use.
The others, not listed by WHO for emergency use and so not acceptable for purposes of U.S. immigration law, include for example:
- Sinopharm, developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products
- Anhui Zhifei, developed by Anhui Zhifei Longcom; Chinese Academy of Sciences
Proof of Vaccination
|Verifiable records (digital or paper)||Vaccination certificate with QR code, digital pass via Smartphone application with QR code (e.g., United Kingdom National Health Service COVID Pass, European Union Digital COVID Certificate)|
|Non-verifiable paper records||Printout of COVID-19 vaccination record or a COVID-19 vaccination certificate issued at national or subnational level or by an authorized vaccine provider (e.g., the CDC vaccination card)|
|Non-verifiable digital records||Digital photos of vaccination card or record, downloaded vaccine record or vaccination certificate from official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider), or a mobile phone application without QR code|
All forms of proof of COVID-19 vaccination must have
- Personal identifiers (full name plus at least one other identifier such as date of birth or passport number) that match the personal identifiers on the passenger’s passport or other travel documents
- Name of official source issuing the record (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider)
- Vaccine manufacturer and date(s) of vaccination
Airlines and other aircraft operators must be able to confirm proof of vaccination and review other required information and should determine when translation is necessary for these purposes. If your documents are in a language other than English, you should check with your airline or aircraft operator before travel.
Is someone familiar with a practical description of the documentation for a Chinese mainland traveler to the U.S.?
See China rolls out vaccine passport, aiming to revive foreign travel for information about China’s International Travel Health Certificate, which is downloadable through the WeChat app.