US travel ban lifts: Everything Brits need to know about travelling Stateside right now
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Editor’s note: This page has been updated with the latest information as of 8 November.
After 20 months of closed borders due to COVID-19 restrictions, international travellers are finally allowed to enter the United States again for non-essential travel. The easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions was celebrated by an historic dual takeoff from London Heathrow (LHR) on 8 November 2021.
Here is everything you need to know ahead of carrying out any upcoming travel from the U.K. to the U.S.
When did the United States reopen?
The U.S. reopened on 8 November 2021. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic teamed up for a parallel takeoff of their dual A350 morning services to New York-JFK from London Heathrow (LHR).
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Who is allowed to travel to the US?
At the time of writing, fully vaccinated travellers will be allowed to enter the U.S. for any reason from 8 November, including tourism and visiting friends and family. This includes travellers from the United Kingdom, the 26 members of the European Schengen zone, as well as Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland and South Africa.
What are the entry requirements?
Only fully vaccinated non-U.S. travellers will be permitted entry. You will be considered fully vaccinated a minimum of 14 days after receiving a final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (either the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine).
All non-U.S. travellers 2 years of age and older will also need to show a negative COVID-19 test to board a flight to the United States, taken within three days of the flight’s departure.
Note this is three days, and not within 72 hours, which allows travellers some extra flexibility.
U.S. residents who are not fully vaccinated will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test one day before their flight’s departure.
Children under 18 years are not currently required to be vaccinated, but they must adhere to the testing requirements.
The accepted vaccines are expected to be:
- Johnson & Johnson
- Covishield, Oxford-AstraZeneca formulation
Vaccine certificates, including the NHS Covid Pass, will be accepted for travel to the U.S. from 8 November.
The test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test (PCR, nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test). The testing procedure must include a “telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test that provides real-time supervision remotely through an audio and video connection.”
This means the free NHS tests you take at home and then report into the NHS will not be allowed. Video antigen tests such as those given by Qured should satisfy the testing requirement as the testing provider issues you with a negative certificate for travel.
There are only a “very limited set of exceptions from the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals,” outlined by the Biden administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including people with “rare” medical contraindications.
Make sure you have a valid ESTA which may have expired during the pandemic lockout.
Are there restrictions while I am in the United States?
These differ from state to state, although taking a second test three to five days after arriving in the U.S. is recommended with regards to precautions.
In Los Angeles, California, or New York City, you can be required to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and bars. Other states like Florida and Texas have virtually no restrictions, and things like mask usage may be uncommon – though they are mandatory on planes and other forms of public transportation.
In airports, travellers must follow state and local regulations.
Depending on where in the country you are planning to travel to, you should check local rules before travelling. The U.K. Foreign Office also provides regularly updated country-by-country advice for travellers.
What about returning or travelling to the United Kingdom?
You no longer need a predeparture test to return to the United Kingdom if you are fully vaccinated. You still need to pre-book a Day 2 test but this can now be a cheaper antigen/lateral flow test, rather than the more expensive PCR test. This applies to people vaccinated in the U.K., the EU, the U.S. and other accepted countries such as Hong Kong, South Africa and Brazil.
If you are not fully vaccinated you are subject to much stricter entry requirements, including a pre-departure test three days before you travel, a Day 2 and Day 8 test, along with 10 days of self-isolation. This period can be reduced to five days if you choose to participate in the Test to Release scheme.
It’s an exciting time for the return of travel with one of the most popular destinations finally welcoming British travellers again. You can expect a flood of additional flights to be added across the Atlantic, so keep an eye out for some great travel deals.
Make sure you are aware of the testing requirements
Featured image by TomasSereda / Getty Images
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