U.S. Ends Last Covid Travel Barrier, Vaccine Mandate for Foreign Arrivals

For 18 months during the height of the pandemic, the U.S. closed its borders to international travelers, separating families and costing the global travel industry billions of dollars.

In November 2021, those restrictions were eased, and international travelers were welcomed back to the United States with great fanfare. But foreign travelers were still required to be vaccinated and take a coronavirus test within three days of travel to all U.S. ports of entry. When the administration dropped its testing rule in June last year but kept vaccinations in place, it argued that they were still necessary to slow the spread of new variants of the virus entering the country.

As of last summer, the U.S. was one of the few remaining countries to maintain coronavirus travel restrictions, causing many travelers to choose alternative destinations that welcome them unconditionally.

The rules barred the world’s No. 1-ranked tennis player, Novak Djokovic, from competing in the U.S. Open in 2022 because he is not vaccinated.

The initial U.S. travel ban on international travel decimated the U.S. economy’s tourism sector and resulted in losses of nearly $300 billion in visitor spending and more than one million American jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association, an industry group.

Until April last year, all passengers traveling to or within the U.S. were required to wear masks on airplanes — a contentious mandate that led to fistfights and altercations on planes and put off some international travelers from taking long-haul flights.

Even after the restrictions were eased, spending by international travelers in the U.S. was still down by 78 percent in March 2022 compared to 2019 levels and by 56 percent for business travel, the group said.

“Today’s action to lift the vaccine requirement eases a significant entry barrier for many global travelers, moving our industry and country forward,” Geoff Freeman, the chief executive of the association, said in a statement after the May 11 end date was announced.

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