More than 18 months into the global coronavirus outbreak, restrictions on travel into the US are stricter than ever and could last until after the midterm elections next fall because of political calculations, according to a foreign policy expert.
In a column published in Foreign Policy on Monday, Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a prestigious nonpartisan think tank, blasted the Biden Administration’s approach to travel bans as ‘a thoughtless, unscientific policy’ that causes more damage every day to both domestic economy and America’s relations with other countries.
‘Against all common sense, fully vaccinated travelers from many countries with much lower case rates than the United States remain blocked,’ writes Alden, a visiting professor of US-Canada economic relations at Western Washington University.
Restrictions on foreign travel into the US are stricter than ever and could last until next fall
US-Canada land borders has been closed to nonessential travel since March 2020 to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus
US-Mexico land border remains closed, but Mexicans are allowed to fly to the US
Under current rules as laid out on the US Department of State’s website, which were last updated in late June, foreign travel to the US is barred from China, Iran, Schengen Area comprising 26 European countries, UK, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and India.
These restrictions do not apply to US citizens and legal permanent residents, as well as their immediate family members.
Alden writes that liberals and conservatives both support travel restrictions, but for different reasons: those on the left are concerned about the spread of COVID-19, and those on the right seek to keep foreigners out.
Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, slammed the Biden Administration’s approach to travel bans as ‘a thoughtless, unscientific policy’
The US-Canada and US-Mexico land borders have been closed to nonessential travel since March 2020 to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In early August, Canada lifted its prohibition on Americans crossing the border, allowing US citizens and legal residents to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID. Travelers also must fill out a detailed application on the arriveCAN app before crossing.
So far, the US has not reciprocated by reopening the land border even to vaccinated Canadians, although travelers from both Canada and Mexico can fly to the US, in what Alden slams in his column as ‘a piece of epidemiological nonsense that no U.S. government official has bothered to explain or defend.’
Amid rising delta variant cases, the European Union last month removed the US from its safe list of nations for nonessential travel, along with Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia. The move followed a two-month reprieve, during which travelers from those countries were welcomed into EU’s member nations.
The guidance is nonbinding, and each nation can decide whether to allow US tourists into the country. To date, Germany, France, Spain, and the majority of EU countries are letting fully vaccinated Americans enter.
It has been reported that the Biden Administration is working with the airlines to put in place a vaccination requirement for foreign travelers, but there is a concern within the White House that moving towards so-called vaccine passports could hurt the Democrats in the midterm elections in November 2022.
The Biden Administration is said to be working with airlines to enact vaccine requirements for foreign travelers, but it could costs Democrats in the midterm elections
‘If protecting Biden’s political flank is the criterion, as it may very well be, these and other border restrictions could remain frozen until the 2022 U.S. midterm elections,’ Alden writes.
The main takeaway from the column is that America’s rigid travel restrictions benefit both parties at the moment, and until that changes, US is unlikely to ease its travel bans to the chagrin of communities and businesses that rely on tourism.
‘It is not clear how the United States can climb out from the hole it has dug for itself,’ Alden writes. ‘Ultimately, though, moving forward will likely require the administration to embrace some form of vaccine passport—at the very least for foreign nationals—and live with the political fallout.’