The US is reopening its borders on November 8 to fully vaccinated visitors, ending a 20-month entry ban.
The ban was imposed by former President Donald Trump due to Covid-19.
It has affected non-US citizens from over 30 countries, including the UK and EU states, separating families and stalling tourism.
Airlines are expecting a flood of visitors as the restrictions are lifted for those who are fully vaccinated, and undergo testing and contact tracing.
In an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, US borders were initially closed to travelers from China in early 2020. The restrictions were then extended to other countries.
The rules barred entry to most non-US citizens who had been in the UK and a number of other European countries, as well as China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
Under the new rules, foreign travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before flying, get a negative Covid-19 test result within three days of traveling, and hand over their contact information. They will not have to quarantine.
The US land borders with neighbors Canada and Mexico will also reopen for the fully vaccinated.
Thousands of migrants have arrived in areas along Mexico’s border with the US, hoping to take advantage of the newly-relaxed rules.
In southern Mexico, a new caravan of thousands of mainly Central American migrants – many of them children – has crossed from Chiapas to Oaxaca state, with the ultimate aim of reaching the border and being accepted into the US.
The Migrant Alliance Group, a Mexico-based advocacy group, has warned that false information is being spread about the new rules in some communities – with many asylum seekers assuming that they will now receive more favorable treatment from border officials.
Businesses in cities along the border with Mexico are hoping for a boost after struggling under America’s Covid-induced restrictions.
United Airlines says it expects a 50% rise in international inbound passengers, while Delta’s chief executive Ed Bastian warned travelers to expect queues.
The EU recommended allowing American travelers into the bloc in June, while visitors from the US have been able to travel to the UK since July 28.
The US has expanded its travel ban to include people from North Korea, Venezuela and Chad.
According to the White House, the new restrictions follow a review of information sharing by foreign governments.
President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation on September 24.
He said in a post on Twitter: “Making America safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet.”
The restrictions on Venezuelans apply only to government officials and their family members.
The three new countries join five others from President Trump’s original travel ban: Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. However, the new proclamation removed restrictions that were placed on Sudan.
President Trump’s original ban was highly controversial, as it affected six majority-Muslim countries, and was widely labeled a “Muslim ban”.
The travel ban was subject to a range of legal challenges and several large-scale protests, and is due to be considered by the US Supreme Court in October, having been partly reinstated in July.
The American Civil Liberties Union rights group said the addition of the new countries “doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban”.
It is not yet clear how President Trump’s new proclamation, which changes several key elements, will affect that legal challenge.
The addition of North Korea and Venezuela now means not all nations on the list are majority-Muslim.
The criteria for the new ban list is now based on vetting procedures and co-operation, and the restrictions have now been “tailored” on a country-by-country basis. The White House said North Korea did not co-operate with the US government “in any respect” and failed all requirements – and so all travel to the US by its citizens has been banned. Chad, while an important counter-terrorism partner, did not share terrorism-related and other public information the US required – business and tourist visas for its nationals are suspended. Only “certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members” have been banned – its government has recently been hit with economic sanctions by the US, who now say it does not co-operate “in verifying whether its citizens pose national security or public-safety threats” and does not receive deported nationals willingly.
Most of the restrictions come in the form of suspension of B-1 and B-2 business and tourist visas, and they do not appear to be time-limited in the way that President Trump’s former executive order was.
In a fact sheet accompanying President Trump’s proclamation, the White House said that while Iraq also falls short of the required criteria, the country was not included in the new restrictions “because of the close co-operative relationship between the United States” and their part in fighting so-called Islamic State.
The restrictions come into effect on October 18, but will not apply to those already in possession of a valid visa, the White House said.
American citizens are to be ban from traveling to North Korea.
In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the ban would be published next week in the Federal Register, to come into effect 30 days later.
US officials linked the move to the death of jailed American student Otto Warmbier.
Once the ban is in effect, US citizens will need special validation to travel to or within North Korea.
Otto Warmbier traveled to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours. He was arrested in 2016 for trying to steal a propaganda sign and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was returned to the US in a coma in June and died a week later.
Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, who both operate in North Korea, revealed on July 21 that they had been told of the upcoming ban by the Swedish embassy, which acts for the US as Washington has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Image source Wikimedia
It appears the embassy was urging all US nationals to depart immediately and was trying to check on the number of US tourists left in North Korea.
Heather Nauert’s statement said: “Due to mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, the Secretary has authorized a Geographical Travel Restriction on all US nationals’ use of a passport to travelling through, or to North Korea.
“Once in effect, US passports will be invalid for travel to, through, and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea.
“We intend to publish a notice in the Federal Register next week.
“The restriction will be implemented 30 days after publication.”
Those who already hold valid visas are not affected. Dual nationals who travel on their passport from the unaffected country will also be allowed entry.
The rules come into effect at 20:00 Washington time.
However, lawyers both for and against the ban have warned that the new restrictions – which will remain in place until the Supreme Court issues a final ruling – could open the door to a flood of legal challenges.
However, the Supreme Court will not be reviewing the case until October – which will mean the 90-day period will be largely done.
The court also approved the 120-day ban on refugees entering the US, allowing the government to bar entry to refugee claimants who do not have any “bona fide relationship” with an American individual or entity.
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