Published: Apr 06, 2021, Updated: Apr 06, 2021
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has severely affected traveling to the US, even for those who have an ESTA. The United States has the greatest number of cases globally, with almost 3.5 million cases confirmed by April 2021, and sadly, over half a million people have died from this disease. However, the number of cases reported daily has been gradually falling since the start of 2021.
Yes, you can apply for an ESTA, and your application is likely to be processed as quickly as usual. An ESTA is valid for up to two years, so it doesn’t matter if your travel plans are yet to be confirmed.
Even if your ESTA is valid, you do not automatically have the right to enter the US. The American authorities have implemented several policies to limit the spread of COVID, including temporary travel bans from countries that are deemed to high-risk areas.
The US authorities currently exclude travelers based on the countries in which they have recently been present. The ban includes transit countries. Even if a traveler has a current ESTA, they will be prevented from entering the US if they have been present in the UK, Ireland, or any of the following countries during the previous 14 days:
The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Brazil, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and South Africa.
If you have not been to any of the countries listed above, you can still transfer within the US. Apply for an ESTA as usual. If you arrive in New York State or Massachusetts, you will have to complete a health form online before you arrive.
Since the start of the year, travelers over the age of two must show a negative COVID test result taken no longer than three days before their departure before checking in. If you have previously been infected with coronavirus, you can show confirmation from a hospital or other health institution stating that you can now travel. The US health authorities also recommend that travelers entering the country should self isolate for seven days. This is mandatory in some states for travelers from countries such as the UK.
US citizens, their spouses, and their children are exempt from the travel ban. Parents, legal guardians, and unmarried siblings of US citizens under 21 are also exempt.
Exceptions are also made for people whose travel is deemed to be in the US national interest, such as investors, business travelers, academics and students on F-1 and M-1 visas, workers in vital areas such as healthcare and agriculture, and qualified individuals traveling for humanitarian purposes. If you wish to travel to the United States for such a reason, you should apply to the US embassy.
Travelers in the USA should follow the rules to prevent the risk of infection from COVID-19. They are much the same as the rules that apply in the United Kingdom and Ireland, although you should bear in mind that the regulations in certain states differ slightly.
To enter the UK traveling from the United States, you must present a current ( taken no longer than three days before traveling) negative COVID-19 test. You must book two further tests that you will take on arrival. You will also have to self-isolate for ten days.
If you are unable to leave the US on time, for example, due to your flight being canceled or because of illness, you will be eligible to apply to a USCIS contact center for an extension of 30 days. You can also apply at border posts, Deferred Inspection Sites, and airports.
There is no indication as to when trips for business or holidays in the US for travelers with an ESTA will resume. There have been hints from the authorities that the ban on travel from the UK and Schengen countries might end in May. So if you’re planning a trip to the US, keep an eye on our website for the latest updates.