International travellers are now welcome back into the USA – as long as they are fully vaccinated.
President Joe Biden has been quoted as saying: “It is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the COVID-19 pandemic.” He also changed the policy from a geographic one (where travel from particular countries was banned) to one that was based on individual vaccination status.
Here is everything you need to know about the new system for travel to the USA from the UK.
How severe was the USA’s travel ban?
Visitors from the UK, Ireland and the Schengen Area (which covers most of the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) were banned from travelling to the US from mid-March 2020 to 7th November 2021. The USA said this was due to the fact that arrivals from these countries threatened “the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security.”
A similar ban was also put in place for arrivals from Brazil, China, India, Iran and South Africa. This meant that anyone who had been “physically present” in one of the named locations in the last 14 days could not enter the United States.
These travel bans applied to all travellers except American Citizens and residents. People who had a compassionate reason to travel, or whose presence was felt to be beneficial to the American nation – could ask for a “National Interest Exception” – although these were slow and difficult to obtain.
What has changed recently?
The blanket travel ban for arrivals from the UK, the European Union and other nations was lifted from 5.01am on the 8th of November, with conditions for the restart being set out by President Biden on the 25th of October.
Fully vaccinated travellers from anywhere in the world are now able to visit the USA, as long as they comply with existing immigration regulations – which include presenting an Esta or valid visa.
At the same time, land travel from Canada and Mexico for non-essential journeys also became possible again.
What does the USA mean by “fully vaccinated”?
A person who has fully completed a course of jabs with a vaccine that is authorised for emergency use by the World Health Organisation (WHO) at least two weeks before their date of arrival.
The authorised vaccines are Janssen, Moderna, Oxford AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech as well as Sinopharm and Sinovac.
The Center for Disease Control (health regulator in the USA) has explicitly stated that its guidance on what constitutes being fully vaccinated applies to the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, wherever it was manufactured.
Travellers are permitted to mix vaccines as long as they are on the approved list, and the two doses were administered at least 17 days apart.
Do I need to take a pre-departure COVID test?
Yes if you are arriving by air. No, if you are travelling by land.
Airline travellers must take a COVID test no more than three days before travel, with a lateral flow test now being accepted.
There is no need for you to take a PCR test, although you may choose to do so if you are flying via Canada – as Canada requires a PCR test to be taken. In this case, you can use the same test result for each country, as long as you adhere to the rules on timings.
The CDC has said that “The three day period is the three days before the flight’s departure. For example, if a passenger’s flight is at 1 pm on a Friday they can board with a negative test taken any time on the prior Tuesday or after.”
Do I need to fill in a form?
Yes. Wait for it. The “Combined Passenger Disclosure and Attestation to the United States of America.” is required in paper form. You can complete it online but must print it out to sign it.
Any tests needed on arrival?
The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated travellers “take a viral test within three to five days of arrival in the UK” but is not insisting on it.
The test can be a swift lateral flow test and there is no obligation for the test to be medically supervised.
You cannot use a free NHS lateral flow test, any test for international travel must be paid for privately.
What about children who have not been vaccinated?
Those who are under 18 and travelling to the United States with a fully vaccinated parent or guardian do not need to be vaccinated. However, the parent or guardian must fill out the attestation.
They must also make arrangements for “testing with a COVID-19 viral test three to five days after arriving in the United States unless such person has documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.”
This applies to children between the ages of 2 and 17 who arrive by air.
Here at Fit2FlyTest, we have a variety of tests available for you to help with travel to the USA: