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Covid restrictions: Travelling to the US, or applying for a Green Card? Here's what you need to know

More travel updates: Up to $3,000 fine for not wearing a mask in the US, Australia may allow fully vaccinated travellers by Christmas, and Italy recognises all versions of AstraZeneca vaccine now.

September 30, 2021 / 05:49 PM IST
(Image: Reuters)

(Image: Reuters)

With the US lifting the travel ban for fully vaccinated travellers from November 2021, let’s look at new travel guidelines for the US and other countries.

USA’s new international air travel system: As the US opens its doors to fully vaccinated travellers from 33 countries from November 2021, the country’s new international air travel system will be implemented strictly to enforce proven disease mitigation strategies, enhanced testing, contact tracing and masking.

Additionally, here’s what you’ll need to do to travel to the US from November 2021: 

- Fully vaccinated travellers to the US will have to complete pre-departure testing up to three days prior to departure and carry proof of negative tests.

- The new US policy only requires adult foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated in order to enter the US. There is still no clarity on whether unvaccinated children will face different testing protocols when flying into the country.

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- The US Centers for Diseases Control & Prevention (CDC) has said that the US will accept fully vaccinated travellers with any Covid-19 vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO), including those from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The WHO has also approved AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac; it is reviewing Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, but hasn’t approved it yet.

- The CDC will require airlines to collect information about passengers and provide it to the health agency if it needs to conduct contact tracing.

- There might be restrictions on crossing land borders from Mexico and Canada into the US. This means that in some cases, fully vaccinated travellers from Mexico and Canada will soon be able fly to the US, but may not be able to make the same journey by car.

- Not masking in the US can lead to heavy penalty: US President Joe Biden has extended the masking requirement on airplanes, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has doubled the fines for passengers who refuse to mask. First offenders who refuse to mask in flights, at airports, and on trains, buses and other forms of public transport could face fines between $500 and $1,000; repeated violations will cost between $1,000 and $3,000, according to the TSA.

- From October 1, Covid vaccination is a must for Green Card: Starting from October 1, 2021, individuals who have not been vaccinated against the 2019 coronavirus will not be permitted to apply for lawful permanent residence, the CDC has confirmed. The decision has been taken to halt further spread of SARS-CoV-2, specially the Delta and Mu strains.

“Effective October 1, 2021, and in compliance with new instructions from the CDC, Covid-19 vaccinations will be required for applicants for lawful permanent residence (known as green card status),” the statement published by the CDC clarified.

This requirement applies both in cases of adjustment of status (for those already within the US) and for applicants applying at US embassies and consulates.

More travel updates

Australia might open doors by Christmas: Australia might open its borders for fully vaccinated travellers by late December 2021, Dan Tehan, the country’s minister for trade, tourism and investment, said. The government has clarified that after the country relaxes its entry rules, international travellers wishing to enter Australia will have to present valid proof of Covid vaccination.

Italy now Recognises all versions of AstraZeneca vaccine for travel: The Italian authorities have announced that they now approve all versions of the AstraZeneca vaccine - Covishield (Serum Institute of India), R-CoVI (R-Pharm) and Covid-19 vaccine-recombinant (Fiocruz), included. These three are now considered equivalent to the other vaccines already approved for use by the country’s authorities.

All travellers who have been immunised with an AstraZeneca version other than the one that has been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be allowed to enter the country under the same rules as the others.

It maybe noted that worldwide, 63 countries accept Covishield vaccine as proof of immunity for travel.

Covid-19 vaccine mandatory for these European universities: A few universities in Europe have announced mandatory requirement of vaccination against the new coronavirus for admission into their 2021/22 academic session.

Austria: University of Salzburg, University of Graz, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Graz University of Technology, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna

Belgium: University of Antwerp, Artevelde University College

Germany: University of Düsseldorf, University of Stuttgart, Humboldt University of Berlin, Technical University of Berlin, Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences

France: Sciences Po, Aix-Marseille University, University of Lorraine, University of Rennes

Italy: University of Padua, University of Bergamo, University of Palermo, University of Calabria

Czechia: Czech Technical University in Prague, Prague College of Psychosocial Studies, Anglo-American University, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Technical University of Ostrava

Denmark: Aarhus University, University of Southern Denmark, Aarhus Business College, Dania Academy, Horsens Business College

Kyrgyzstan is the first country in the world to accept all Covid vaccines as proof of immunity against the virus: Kyrgyzstan has become among the first countries worldwide to accept all Covid-19 vaccines as valid proof of immunity. Fully vaccinated internationals who have taken any of the vaccines against the new coronavirus are permitted to enter Kyrgyzstan. Unvaccinated travellers are also allowed to enter Kyrgyzstan; however, they are required to present a negative Covid report upon arrival.

“Proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test from no more than 72 hours before your arrival by air is now needed for foreign citizens to enter Kyrgyzstan. If your journey is delayed and your results are outside the 72-hour period, you will need to have a further PCR test on arrival. Requirements could change at short notice,” Kyrgyzstan authorities clarified in an official statement.

VFS Visa Application Centres (VACs):

- From October 1, VFS’ Germany VAC in Pune will offer short-term visa services on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 8 am and 2 pm.

- South Africa and Thailand VAC will resume visa processing services in Pune from October 1, 2021. Timing: Monday to Friday; 9 am to 3 pm.

- From September 29, VFS South Africa VAC in Ahmedabad has resumed accepting applications for all visa categories. Timing: Monday to Friday; 9 am to 3 pm.
Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.

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