Joining the ranks of Caribbean destinations easing travel restrictions once more, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) announced recently the pre-departure testing requirement is being lifted for vaccinated Americans visiting from the mainland. The move follows an accentuated drop in Covid cases as the U.S. territory rides out the Omicron storm.
Shortly after Omicron was flagged as a variant of concern in late 2021, the USVI was quick to implement stricter health protocols at its ports of entry, especially concerning domestic arrivals from other U.S. hotspots. Now, the Omicron-induced restrictions are being rolled back, and vaccinated U.S. tourists can again enjoy unrestricted access to the islands.
The New Entry Protocols For Tourists Visiting The USVI As Of March 7, 2022
Although it is a U.S. territory, the Virgin Islands have some autonomy regarding measures imposed at its borders, especially regarding health and safety risks. For that reason, throughout the pandemic, they have enforced stricter entry regimes compared to U.S. states or other territories, including testing mandates for domestic arrivals.
However, since March 7, 2022, there have been important updates to their entry regime affecting visitors from the mainland United States and other American territories. While testing was previously a requirement for all travelers, those who hold a valid vaccination card, and are arriving from anywhere in the U.S. no longer need further proof of a negative test.
As listed on the USVI official website, the recognized vaccination schemes are the following:
- AstraZeneca/Oxford (at least two doses)
- Covaxin (at least two doses)
- Covovax (at least two doses)
- Johnson and Johnson (one dose)
- Moderna (at least two doses)
- Nuvaxovid (at least two doses)
- Pfizer/BionTech (at least two doses)
- Sinopharm (at least two doses)
Travelers who were vaccinated recently, when at least 14 days have not yet elapsed since the completion of an authorized vaccination scheme as defined above, still do not qualify for restriction-free travel to the Virgin Islands. Similarly, those who are partially vaccinated, or have not been vaccinated at all, must still submit a negative test before flying.
Accepted tests are either PCR or other recognized NAAT tests, or rapid antigen. However, unlike many destinations in the Caribbean which have shorter testing windows, the USVI allow domestic visitors who do not yet qualify as being fully vaccinated to submit a negative test within five days of traveling.
Can Vaccinated International Arrivals Also Enter Without Testing?
While immunized Americans arriving from a U.S. departure point can again travel to the USVI without undergoing testing, all categories of international travelers must still submit a negative Covid test and observe a series of other requirements, which are dependent on a number of factors, including vaccination, age, and transportation mode.
In line with general U.S. entry rules for foreign visitors, the USVI requires all flight arrivals to present a valid negative test, either PCR or rapid test, within 24 hours of travel. Additionally, international tourists must be fully immunized and be able to present to both airport, and border authorities, a valid vaccination certificate.
When entering the USVI from abroad (e.g. on an international flight or cruise ship departing from a non-U.S. Caribbean destination) American citizens must follow entry rules set out by the U.S. Government. This means they are still subject to testing in under 24 hours when crossing back to a United States territory from any external entry point.
Regarding travel by ferry, the official website states international arrivals must be vaccinated and present a negative test. When arriving in the USVI from an international port, American citizens must present proof of vaccination and take a test within five days of departure. Travelers aged 2-17 are exempt from the vaccine requirement.
As a new mega cruise ship terminal in Miami is set to become the biggest in the United States, ferry travel to the Virgin Islands and several other sunny destinations in the Caribbean is set to increase. Nevertheless, visitors are still advised to check both their Covid and visa requirements, which are nationality-based, prior to boarding a USVI-bound vessel.
Important Information Both Domestic And International Travelers Should Know
All of those eligible to visit the USVI testing-free must enter their travel information on the Travel Screening Portal prior to boarding. If arriving from the U.S. mainland or other U.S. territories, this requirement applies to travelers aged 5 and older, while international arrivals require a submission from age 2.
On the Portal, travelers are expected to enter their personal details, travel plans, and answer truthfully to a Covid questionnaire. On the last step, visitors must tick either the vaccinated or unvaccinated (with other valid Covid documentation) box. They must also upload all the relevant certificates to the platform.
How Easy Is It To Travel To The Caribbean Right Now?
While numerous destinations in Europe and Asia imposed strict entry rules for Americans, to varying degrees, in different stages of the pandemic, most of the Caribbean has remained relatively open from the onset of the crisis. Even now, traveling to some countries in Europe is still not hassle-free, prompting IATA to advocate for the lifting of remaining restrictions.
On the other hand, places like Costa Rica and Belize have famously eased entry requirements. Bordering the United States, Mexico went as far as removing the dreaded PLF form, and Jamaica has also abolished its Covid-era Travel Authorization program and the need for post-arrival quarantine for certain travelers.
With rules being eased and several U.S. airlines ramping up their Caribbean schedule this week, it seems the special bond between American tourists and the region is stronger than ever. As part of the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands is no exception, offering even easier and less bureaucratic vacation opportunities than many in the Caribbean Sea.
In order to visit an island in the territory (either St. Thomas, St. John or St. Croix) mainland Americans do not need to carry a passport and, as of March 7, are not subject to pre-departure testing so long as they are vaccinated. For more information on travel to the Virgin Islands, we advise our readers to follow official guidance through this link.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com