The United States of America currently offers one of the more perplexing approaches to international travel restrictions, of any leading nation. It now sounds like it’s going to be a while before that changes.
Visitors from places of high covid-19 transmission, with low levels of vaccination, such as Indonesia and Mexico are currently allowed to pour in without any vaccination, yet highly vaccinated travelers from areas of very low covid-19 incidence, such as Europe’s Schengen Zone or the United Kingdom remain banned from entry.
The Biden Administration, which claims to be “guided by science” on border measures, wouldn’t have the easiest time explaining to a scientist or epidemiologist as to why the current bans and restrictions make sense.
The good news is: that’s going to change.
The bad news is: it’s probably going to take a while.
According to Jeff Zients, the White House Coordinator for Covid-19 Response, the administration is now looking at a “new system for international travel”, and the new system will eventually replace current bans and restrictions with a “metric based” system.
US Working On New International Travel System
The long and the short of new US international travel system proposals is that they are likely to contain a vaccination mandate for all visitors.
The Biden Administration is taking flack for inconsistency in current travel measures, which allow unchecked entry with just one negative test from many countries, while continuing to ban fully vaccinated visitors from trusted partners across Europe.
“The American people need to trust that the new system for international travel is safer even as we – I mean at that point – we’ll be letting in more travelers,”
“We are exploring considering vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States,”Jeff Zients, White House Covid-19 Coordination
According to Reuters, Mr Zients apparently told the U.S. Travel And Tourism Board that the Biden Administration does not plan to immediately relax any of the travel entry restrictions in place for foreign visitors.
The news is a major blow to business sectors, including many airlines eager to reopen transatlantic ties. Lobbying groups for UK and American business estimate more than $300 million in trade is being lost daily by the prolonged closures, between the two countries alone.
The question in place now, is as to how the new international travel system could be implemented. Many countries across Europe began requiring proof of vaccination for entry, as the US appears likely to, but chose to avoid time consuming IT projects in favor of simple proof at the border which is also verified before boarding.
The US could potentially be looking at roping vaccination proof into current ESTA visa-waiver systems, or an additional new tech system, which could add lengthy delay to any reopening plans, amid reports of new contact tracing requirements for all visitors.
What Others Countries Are Doing
The European Union created a singular EU DCC digital covid-19 pass based on official digital vaccination records from each member country. The certificate is valid in all EU countries and Americans and others can have their vaccination records inputted into the system before visiting, or on arrival.
This digital and secured system has streamlined border entry and allowed countries to safely reopen, with a simple requirement that most visitors are fully vaccinated.
The US, on the other hand, uses paper vaccination certificates which can easily be forged, and does not have a central digital database of all covid-19 vaccinations. This is due in large part to different records systems used in each state, with data that can’t easily match up and communicate.
Only some states, such as New York with the Excelsior Pass, offer a secure, digital vaccination certificate.
US Travel Reopening Delays, Again?
Plans are clearly being made to create a new system for entry into the United States, but bureaucracy rarely moves quickly.
Innumerable government agencies will need to sign off on plans, digital solutions may need to be created, US Customs and Border Protection Officers will need to be briefed, and airlines too.
Frustrations with current US entry restrictions are rife in Europe, which opened to Americans on the expected condition that entry would be reciprocated for all fully vaccinated Europeans.
Despite pleas from leaders, including a White House visit from German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, European and UK visitors remain barred from entering the US.
Now, many European countries are closing their doors on Americans, in retaliation. Unless a new international travel system is revealed swiftly, new border restrictions abroad for US travelers are inevitable.