Biden administration developing plan to require almost all foreign visitors to be vaccinated

The Biden administration is developing a plan to mandate vaccinations for almost all foreign visitors to the US, a White House official confirms to CNN, though some exceptions are expected.

By Kaitlan Collins and Maegan Vazquez, CNN

(CNN) -- The Biden administration is developing a plan to mandate vaccinations for almost all foreign visitors to the US, a White House official confirmed to CNN on Wednesday, though some exceptions are expected.

Officials are still in the early phases of developing the plan and an announcement is not imminent. There is no imminent change to the current travel restrictions in place because of the highly contagious Delta variant currently circulating around the world, an official cautioned.

But officials from multiple agencies across the federal government have been constantly evaluating the current travel restrictions and are developing a plan for lifting them when the time eventually comes. According to the White House official, this includes requiring all foreign nationals traveling to the US from all countries to be fully vaccinated, with limited exceptions, though a final plan has not been determined.

News of the plan under consideration was first reported by Reuters.

The White House was facing growing pressure last month from the travel industry and US allies to lift restrictions on who can travel into the US. But ultimately, the Biden administration decided to keep existing travel restrictions in place.

Multiple officials said the administration came close to lifting some travel restrictions to the US earlier this year, but reversed course after the Delta variant gained a strong foothold in the US.

The Delta variant now accounts for more than 90% of coronavirus circulating in the US, according to data published the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tourism from abroad has essentially halted under the US Covid-19 travel rules. The restrictions also bar migrants from seeking asylum and prevent foreigners from visiting family in the US.

The Biden administration recently extended non-essential travel restrictions for the US northern and southern borders until August 21, despite Canada saying that fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents currently residing in the US will be allowed into Canada beginning on August 9. The US has been limiting non-essential travel along both borders since the start of the pandemic and extending those restrictions on a monthly basis.

More of Europe has been opening up to American travelers. And some three weeks ago, Biden said answers about easing restrictions on Europe would coming in "the next several days." But the ban remains in place, with officials putting any change on hold due to the Delta variant's spread.

The travel restrictions were put in place in March 2020, when many countries were shutting down their borders to slow the spread of coronavirus. The restrictions included the United Kingdom and the "Schengen" group of 26 mostly European Union countries that lie within an area stretching from Iceland to Greece.

The administration launched interagency working groups with the EU, Britain, Canada and Mexico to examine how and when travel restrictions will be lifted.

The groups are overseen by the White House Covid-19 response team and the National Security Council, and include representatives from the CDC along with officials from the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Transportation.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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