TSA Quietly Extends COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement to Enter US

TSA Quietly Extends COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement to Enter US
Travelers stand in line for a TSA checkpoint at the Miami International Airport in Miami on Dec. 19, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has quietly extended the requirement for visitors to the United States to have proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

The United States is the only Western country and one of the few remaining countries worldwide to require such proof of entry.

The latest TSA security directive (pdf) is effective from Jan. 9 to April 10, 2023.

It requires foreign aircraft operators to require each non-U.S., nonimmigrant citizen to present paper or digital documentation for “proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” or documentation proving the person is excepted from taking the vaccine, before boarding a flight to the United States.

A “nonimmigrant” is someone who is not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or is visiting the United States on an immigrant visa.

Being fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), involves having received an accepted single-dose vaccination or a second dose of an accepted 2-dose series at least 14 days ago. There is no need for a booster dose to achieve the criterion.

President Joe Biden issued a proclamation on Oct. 25, 2021, to adopt an air travel policy that “relies primarily on vaccination as an added tool” to its strategy to resume air travel to the United States as the world began lifting travel restrictions.

The proclamation replaced a previous country-by-country approach for COVID-19-related air travel restrictions.

The CDC issued an order on Oct. 25, 2021, with revisions on Oct. 30, 2021, and April 14, 2022, offering directions on how to implement the president’s proclamation. The proclamation also requires the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that noncitizens excluded from entry are not allowed to board an aircraft bound for the United States.

The security directive is the latest in a string of orders largely matching that of the previous TSA security directives that were made effective for 12 months starting Nov. 8, 2021, (pdf); that directive was then replaced by another from Nov. 9, 2022, until Jan. 8 (pdf).

US 1 of 4 Countries With the Rule

The United States is one of only a few countries to require COVID-19 vaccine proof as a requirement for entry for non-citizens, with no alternate avenues for the unvaccinated such as requiring proof of immunity against COVID-19, a negative test, or a quarantine period instead.

These other countries include Pakistan, Indonesia, Ghana, and Liberia.

The TSA maintained language in the latest security directive stating that the policies, along with the CDC’s technical instructions and Biden’s proclamation issued in October 2021, “are intended to limit the risk that COVID-19, including variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, is introduced, transmitted, and spread into and throughout the United States.”

The policies will “advance the safety and security” of travelers, government workers, and air travel industry workers while allowing the world’s economies to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the TSA security directive reads.

COVID-19 regulations and restrictions in the United States have evolved in recent months to no longer differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated people in mitigation measures, as policymakers and the general public have acknowledged that COVID-19 vaccines do not or no longer prevent transmission.

In early August, the CDC revised its COVID-19 prevention guidance, no longer distinguishing between people based on their vaccination status because “breakthrough infections occur, though they are generally mild, and persons who have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection.”

Waning Efficacy

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in August had noted that COVID-19 vaccines can no longer prevent transmission. She told CNN in an interview: “Our vaccines are working exceptionally well. They continue to work well for Delta with regard to severe illness and death, they prevent it. But what they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission.”

The COVID-19 vaccines have proven increasingly ineffective in protecting against infection and showed waning efficacy in protecting against hospitalization and severe illness amid newly-emerging variants, prompting a push for boosters.

The CDC and its partner, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have aggressively promoted vaccination during the pandemic, even when little evidence supports the vaccines. The agencies have also repeatedly refused to release COVID-19 vaccine safety data, The Epoch Times previously reported.
The Epoch Times has found that officials in the United States are continuing to spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, including unsupported or misleading statements about vaccine effectiveness and safety.
Zachary Stieber, Eva Fu, and Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.
Related Topics