People wait for a flight at an international terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on January 25, 2021 in New York City.
  • The Biden administration may require foreign visitors to the country to be fully vaccinated, reported Reuters.
  • The move marks a shift in travel restrictions that have seen the US closed to most of the world for more than a year.
  • It also comes as the world is dealing with a surge in cases led by the Delta variant.
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As part of plans to reopen US borders, the White House said it may require nearly all foreign visitors to the US to be vaccinated, reported Reuters, with some exceptions in place.

The White House is in talks with government agencies and also airlines so that it has "a new system ready for when we can reopen travel," a White House official told Reuters.

The reopening of borders will be "a phased approach that over time will mean, with limited exceptions, that foreign nationals traveling to the United States (from all countries) need to be fully vaccinated," said the official.

It is not known if or when the administration will roll out the new requirements.

The US first closed its border to China in January last year over fears of the coronavirus. Border closures later were extended to other countries, including those in the EU and UK, along with Brazil and India.

The latest development marks a significant policy shift in international travel in the US. The White House said last week that travel restrictions would remain in place due to an increase in cases led by the Delta variant.

"The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki at a press briefing, reported The New York Times, adding infections were skyrocketing among the unvaccinated.

The country's tourism and aviation industries have been hit hard by the pandemic as borders closed and flights were grounded. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, the US received 79.4 million visitors in 2019, with tourism receipts over $193 billion pre-pandemic. In 2020, the country saw only 19.4 million visitors.

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