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White House issues new guidelines on Kenyans wishing to travel to the U.S

In Summary

  • Mid this month, U.S President Joe Biden and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta met at the White House.
  • There are over 100,000 Kenyans in the U.S. Family ties necessitate frequent travel.

The White House has announced new travel rules and restrictions for foreigners wishing to travel to the United States.

The restrictions relate to containment of the spread of Covid-19. Kenyans on non-tourist Visas can fly into the U.S, though they need to be vaccinated within 60 days of arrival.

The White House also says children under 18 are exempt from the Covid-19 vaccine requirements, as well as people with medical issues. Besides Kenya, the rules also apply to citizens of Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Armenia, Myanmar, Iraq, Nicaragua, Senegal, Uganda, Libya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Congo, Yemen, Haiti, Chad and Madagascar.

Mid last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta and U.S President Joe Biden met at the White House. They discussed several issues including upping the Covid-19 vaccination rate (U.S donated 17million doses), the crisis in Ethiopia, and global financial transparency. The latter came in the wake of the ‘Pandora Papers’ leak, which adversely mentioned President Kenyatta’s extended family.

The new order signed yesterday by President Biden comes to effect on November 8. The extraordinary U.S. travel restrictions were first imposed in early 2020 to address the spread of COVID-19. The rules bar most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Britain, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

U.S Adopts Air-Travel Policy

“It is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the COVID-19 pandemic and to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States,” Biden’s proclamation says.

Uhuru and Biden in the U.S TV47
President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Joe Biden meet at the White House in mid-October, 2021. PHOTO/PSCU

The White House first disclosed it would remove restrictions in early November for fully vaccinated air travellers from 33 countries.

“Families and friends can see each other again, tourists can visit our amazing landmarks. This policy will further boost economic recovery,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

The Biden administration also detailed requirements airlines must follow to confirm foreign travelers have been vaccinated before boarding U.S.-bound flights.

Awareness of New Rules

One concern among U.S. officials and airlines is making sure foreign travelers are aware of the new vaccine rules that will take effect in just two weeks as well unvaccinated Americans who will face stricter testing rules.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued on Monday new contact tracing rules requiring airlines to collect information from international air passengers like phone numbers, email and U.S. addresses and retain it for 30 days in case it needed “to follow up with travellers who have been exposed to COVID-19 variants or other pathogens.”

IMAGE: Ruto receives vaccine
DP William Ruto receiving the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine. CDC said it would accept any vaccine authorized for use by U.S. regulators or the WHO. Sputnik is not among these vaccines. PHOTO/FILE

The CDC said this month it would accept any vaccine authorized for use by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization.

That list leaves off the Sputnik vaccine that has been used by Latin American countries extensively. Sputnik made a not-so-successful entry into Kenya. It was hastily withdrawn, allegedly for being administered without Ministry of Health approval.

The CDC also said there are no religious  exemptions for international travelers seeking to avoid COVID-19 requirements.

Foreign air travelers will need to provide vaccination documentation from an “official source” and airlines must confirm the last dose was at least two weeks earlier than the travel date.

International air travelers will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days prior to departure. The White House said unvaccinated Americans and foreign nationals receiving exemptions will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of departing.

-Additional information from Reuters.


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