Fully vaccinated travellers from the UK are now welcome in the USA – as long as they can provide a negative pre-departure lateral flow test result.

The ban on arrivals to the US from the UK has been lifted – for fully vaccinated travellers only. On lifting the ban, US President Joe Biden said: “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.”

Biden’s administration has moved away from the geographic policy introduced by Trump to one based on an individual’s vaccination status. 

With this in mind, here is everything you need to know about the new system governing travel from the UK to the USA.

When was travel from the UK to the USA banned?

Travellers 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 – almost 20 months in total. 

The American authorities believed that arrivals from these countries threatened “the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security.”

When did the ban change?

President Biden set the conditions for the ban to be lifted on 25th October 2021.

From this date, fully vaccinated travellers from anyone in the world could visit the US, as long as they comply with existing immigration regulations, including presenting a valid visa or ESTA. There is no need to quarantine on arrival.

What does the USA constitute as “fully vaccinated”?

The Center for Disease Control, the health regulator in the US, defines “fully vaccinated” as the travellers having had “all recommended doses in their primary series of COVID-19 vaccine.” The phrase “primary series” means that the traveller has no requirement to have had their top-up booster jab.

They say, “You will need to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before travelling by air to the United States from a foreign country.”

Accepted vaccines listed include:

  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Moderna
  • Oxford AstraZeneca
  • Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Sinopharm (Chinese)
  • Sinovac (Chinese)

How can I prove my vaccination status to enter the USA?

If you are flying to the US, then the airlines run the entry system. If you are entering the US via a land border, your paperwork will be checked by Customs and Border Protection officers. 

You need to be able to show a “record issued by an official source in the country where the vaccine was given.”

If you are travelling to the US from the UK, the NHS COVID pass should be acceptable digitally or as a paper copy.

Do I need to take a pre-departure COVID test?

If you are arriving by air, then you will need to take a pre-departure COVID test, but not if you are arriving by land. 

Travellers arriving by air must take a COVID test on the day of travel (or the day before). A lateral flow test (rapid antigen) is acceptable – but it must be a privately purchased one, not a free NHS test.

Do I need to fill in any forms to travel to the USA?

Yes. You must fill in a “Combined Passenger Disclosure and Attestation to the United States of America” paper form. You can fill in your details in the form online but must print it out to sign it.

Do I need to take any COVID tests on arrival to the USA?

It is recommended but not enforced that even fully vaccinated travellers take a COVID test “within three to five days of arrival into the US.”

Again, this test can be a lateral flow test, and there is no obligation for the test to be supervised. 

Can unvaccinated children enter the United States?

Children under 18 who have travelled to the US with a fully vaccinated parent or guardian do not need to be vaccinated. 

However, the CDC insists that there are arrangements in place 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.”

Can unvaccinated adults get into the USA with a negative COVID test?

Only if they qualify for a very narrow range of exceptions:

  • air or sea crew
  • people with diplomatic, UN or armed forces accreditation
  • arrivals from countries with limited vaccination programmes
  • those with medical contraindications to vaccines
  • people who have participated in specific clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination

What COVID rules are in place when you are in the USA?

COVID rules in the USA vary by state, country and even city. However, restrictions are now ramping down in many places as most states have fully reopened their economics. 

Further Reading

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