The bill passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, but will have to seek approval from the Senate and White House.

A bill to end the requirement that most noncitizens show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination before entering the country has passed in the United States House of Representatives. The mandate to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was extended this past month to last until April.

The bill aims to lift the current vaccine mandate, which restricts the entry of international air travelers who are not immigrants into the United States by air travel unless they are fully vaccinated. United States citizens are not required to be vaccinated, and a booster shot is also not a requirement for entry. There are some limited exceptions to the rule including those with medical contraindications, children, and diplomatic staff.

The United States is a final holdout in mandating incoming passengers are vaccinated but has previously removed its testing requirement for entry. Verification of passengers’ vaccination status is currently undertaken before boarding by airlines with flights headed to US destinations.

The bill, House Resolution 185, passed in the House of Representatives on February 8, 2023, and will now move to the Senate for consideration. There is no indication of whether the Upper House will consider the legislation.

Photo: Denver International Airport

The bill also includes a provision to nullify any successor or subsequent orders that require foreign nationals traveling by air to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of entry.

A father clause prohibits the use of federal funds to administer or enforce such a requirement.

What has the reaction been?

Travel companies, including the US Travel Association, have come out in support of the legislation, which they describe as overdue. Two amendments were also added to the final bill, which will now be sent to the Senate for consideration. The first amendment requires that the Centers for Disease Control produce a report to Congress on the number of visitors denied entry under this policy.

A second clarified that nothing in the underlying bill impacts the CDC order requiring a pre-departure COVID-19 test for people traveling from the People’s Republic of China.

The White House previously announced plans to end the national emergency and the public health emergency declarations related to COVID-19 on May 11th. Earlier this week, the White House indicated it was not in favor of the proposed legislation:

“While COVID-19 is no longer the disruptive threat that it once was, the Administration opposes Congressional action to reverse the vaccination requirement for noncitizen nonimmigrants entering the United States by air.

“This policy has allowed loved ones across the globe to reunite while reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the burdens it places on the health care system in the United States.”

Photo: Denver International Airport

The bill does not affect land crossings on the country’s northern border. Canada removed its vaccine mandate on October 1st, 2022. Canadians currently have to show proof of COVID vaccination when entering the United States by land.

An amendment submitted by Congressman Brian Higgins of New York would have removed this requirement, but it was not included in the final bill. The Representative’s Eastern New York district borders southern Ontario and includes the Cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, key cross-border locations.

Source, ReutersUS NewsThe White House

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