New Covid-19 Travel Restrictions For December 2021
We’re only a few days into December and a potentially busy holiday travel season. However, with the Omicron coronavirus variant impacting international travel requirements, there are strengthened travel restrictions across the world. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid-19 travel restrictions for December 2021.
United States Travel Restrictions
On December 2, 2021, the Biden administration announced two measures that impact Americans and international visitors.
24-Hour Pre-Arrival Testing Window
The air travel testing protocols are stricter for international flights arriving in the United States. Now, any traveler age two or older must obtain a pre-arrival test within one day of flying to the U.S. The testing window changes become effective on December 6, 2021.
Previously, fully vaccinated passengers had up to 3 days before their United States-bound flight to get tested. This requirement applies to U.S. citizens and non-citizens flying to the United States.
There currently isn’t mandatory testing when coming into the United States from a land border crossing.
Non-citizens must also be fully vaccinated to enter the United States quarantine-free.
TSA Mask Mandate Extension
The current TSA mask mandate for any commercial transit within, departing from or arriving in the United States has been extended another time with a March 18, 2022, re-evaluation date.
While airlines required all passengers at least two years old to wear a face-covering during the Trump era, President Biden made this policy a federal law with potential legal penalties. Under the current rule, the minimum fine is $500. Repeat offenders can encounter maximum penalties of $3,000.
Africa Travel Ban
The month of November 2021 closed with the first Omicron travel bans.
So far, non-U.S. citizens cannot enter the United States if they have been in one of these African nations during the last 14 days:
- South Africa
While the latest variant was first discovered in southern Africa, there are now confirmed cases across many countries, including the United States.
However, health experts and government leaders are not rushing to close their international borders completely for non-essential travel like they did during the coronavirus pandemic’s first months. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) is discouraging travel bans but is advising that individuals at least 60 years old don’t travel.
However, it’s possible to see more country-specific travel bans if the situation worsens.
Hawaii remains the only one of the 50 states to have a mandatory self-quarantine for visitors and returning residents. Thankfully, you can still waive this requirement with vaccine proof or a negative pre-arrival test from the last 72 hours. The state also ended its capacity restrictions for restaurants and other businesses on December 1, 2021.
Puerto Rico And U.S. Virgin Islands
The Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands territories require fully vaccinated passengers to upload proof of their vaccination before arriving. Unvaccinated travelers will need to obtain a negative pre-arrival test within 72 hours of arrival.
If you arrive on the island without adequate proof, you must get an in-airport test upon arrival and quarantine until receiving a negative test result.
Europe Travel Restrictions
Several European nations are rolling out temporary nationwide lockdowns that pause tourism until mid-December 2021. More countries are also adopting the 3G rules (vaccinated, recovered and tested) for entry, meaning you must either be vaccinated or recently recovered and have a negative pre-arrival test.
Austria is currently banning tourism travel from November 22, 2021, to December 13, 2021. The country also has a lockdown for non-essential activities for the entire population. Once the border opens again, international visitors must show these medical documents to enter:
- Negative pre-arrival test
- Proof of vaccination or a recent recovery
A mandatory 10-day quarantine occurs for travelers that cannot show adequate proof.
Germany is currently imposing restrictions on its unvaccinated citizens for non-essential indoor activities. This guidance doesn’t directly impact U.S. citizens, and international travelers must be fully vaccinated to visit Germany. However, the country may expand the lockdown measures to vaccinated citizens like Austria (their nationwide restrictions only impacted the unvaccinated at first).
If this happens, leisure travel to Germany will be on hold temporarily.
The United Kingdom has slightly different entry requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors. Vaccinated travelers don’t need a pre-arrival test. However, they must book a post-arrival test on day 2 of being in the UK and self-quarantine until receiving a negative result.
Unvaccinated travelers must get a pre-arrival test and self-quarantine for the first ten days. While in quarantine, they must get a test on days 2 and 8.
Morocco is taking the most cautious route of the African continent so far. The country suspended all incoming flights for at least two weeks starting November 29, 2021, until December 13, 2021. So far, most nations are keeping their borders open and not doing a widespread air travel suspension like Morocco.
Israel also has a near-universal ban prohibiting non-citizens from flying into the country for leisure or business. Returning Israelis must self-quarantine and potentially install a contact tracing app.
Japan had recently begun opening its international borders for business travel again. In light of the new variant, the country is sealed tight again. Travelers that have permission to fly to Japan must self-quarantine for 14 days. Prior to implementing the new restrictions, the country was going to reduce the quarantine period to 10 days.
Popular Caribbean destinations have been maintaining relatively strict entry requirements since their initial reopening. They implemented more rigorous policies with the Delta variant a few months ago.
It’s best for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers to stay in Resilient Corridors to enjoy more mobility. Vaccinated travelers may be able to stay outside these corridors with minimal restrictions. Unvaccinated travelers must self-quarantine for 14 days but can travel freely within the corridors.
Fully vaccinated travelers can visit quarantine-free. However, even the vaccinated must quarantine for 10 days if traveling with unvaccinated children. In addition to the southern African nations, travelers from Belgium are also prohibited from coming.
The Bahamas currently allows vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans to visit with only a negative pre-arrival test result. The entry requirements can be different for other countries.
Countries are taking different approaches and most destinations that you could fly to in November 2021 are still open. However, the testing requirements are stricter for many destinations than they were in earlier 2021.