Travel restrictions remain in place for Europeans entering the U.S.

Published: Jul 15, 2021, Updated: Jul 15, 2021 | Tags: COVID-19, Travel Restrictions

Last month the U.S. government set up working groups to interact with the UK, EU, Mexico, and Canada to investigate how travel restrictions could be lifted to facilitate the resumption of travel between these countries. Last week, however, the Biden administration announced that it has no immediate plans to remove international travel restrictions. This announcement came despite increasing pressure from American legislators and business lobbies.

In an interview with Reuters, White House officials said that although the working groups have been meeting regularly, more discussions were necessary before they could announce the reopening of travel with any country.

Entering the U.S. with a visa or an ESTA during COVID-19

The travel ban to the United States impacts all travelers from a list of 33 countries including the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, China, Brazil, India, Iran, Malta, and countries within the EU. This means travelers who have been in any of these countries during the 14-day period before their arrival in the U.S. will not be allowed entry, whether they have a tourist visa or ESTA.

American tourists visiting Europe or the United Kingdom

Last month the EU issued an official recommendation to its member nations to allow American tourists to enter the bloc. However, the UK is following a more cautious approach. It has put the U.S. on its 'amber' list, i.e. Americans can travel to that country provided that they can deliver proof of a recent negative Covid-19 test and that they first go into quarantine for a period of 10 days.

Despite this, people who live in one of the 29 so-called 'Schengen' countries are still not allowed to travel to the U.S. The exceptions are if they are American citizens or they first spent two weeks before their arrival in a nation that is not on the prohibited list issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The same rules currently apply to citizens of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. The only travelers that are exempted from these restrictions are close family members.

Late last month Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, issued a statement saying that it was too soon for the Biden administration to commit to a specific date for lifting travel restrictions on EU citizens. Blinken added that they were committed to lifting the restrictions as soon as possible, but that their decision in this regard would be determined by scientific evidence provided by medical experts.

On July 8 U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg reconfirmed these sentiments and said that much depended on the progress that was made with vaccines, given the current dominance of the Delta variant in the United States.

How does the EU feel about the lack of reciprocity?

Speaking on behalf of the European Commission Adalbert Jahnz said that, when it comes to lifting restrictions on countries outside the region, reciprocity was a crucial part of their approach. He added that the U.S. government has assured them that this issue was high on its list of priorities.

How about travel to Canada or Mexico?

At the present moment, all non-essential travel across U.S. land borders with Mexico and Canada is restricted by CBP, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The situation is unlikely to change before July 21, 2021 - and might be extended further.

What is regarded as non-essential travel? This term typically refers to travel that is regarded to be recreational or tourism-related. The current list of restrictions has been in place since March 21, 2020. It was originally announced for a 30-day period but since then it has been extended every month.

It is important to take note, however, that these restrictions don't apply to air travel, only to people entering the U.S. via passenger trains or ferries.

Citizens of Canada and Mexico who regularly travel to the United States via passenger rail or ferries will have to explain why their business affairs or employment in that country should be regarded as essential. They should expect to be questioned extensively and to be asked for supporting documentation.

How does the current situation impact ESTA applications?

The travel ban to the United States impacts all travelers from a list of 33 countries. This includes people with valid ESTA or visa. Only travelers with valid ESTA documents who stayed in a country that is not on the banned list during the two weeks before their arrival in the U.S. will be granted entry. Please note that even transits are for the purposes of this rule regarded as a stay in that particular country.

Exceptions to the rule

The only exceptions to the U.S. travel ban on 33 countries are the following:

  • Lawful permanent residents, citizens, and their spouses
  • Children of the following groups of people: American citizens and legal permanent residents who are under the age of 21 and not married
  • Parents of the following groups of people: minor (i.e. unmarried, under 21) American citizens and legal permanent residents.
  • All holders of immigrant visas
  • All holders of the following non-immigrant visas: M, K, C1/D, and F, including the minor children and spouses of legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens.

Please contact your airline for specific boarding requirements.

If you hold a passport from a visa waiver eligible country and wish to obtain an ESTA for tourist, business, medical or transit purposes, get started on your application, otherwise, visit the FAQ to learn more about the ESTA

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ESTA is a mandatory travel authorization for eligible travelers entering the United States by land, air, or sea for visits less than 90 days.

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