On 20 September, the US government announced an end to its travel ban on UK citizens, with fully vaccinated travellers to be allowed entry from sometime in November.
White House pandemic coordinator Jeff Zients confirmed the easing of restrictions, telling The New York Times that he expects fully vaccinated Europeans to be able to fly to the United States staring in “early November.”
It is understood that the US will ease travel restrictions for all foreign nationals who have had two doses of the vaccine, with the second injection having been administered two weeks before arrival.
On 15 October, the White House announced that foreign nationals including Britons will be able to visit the US from 8 November.
“The US’ new travel policy that requires vaccination for foreign national travelers to the United States will begin on Nov 8,” said Kevin Munoz, White House assistant press secretary, on Twitter. “This announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel. This policy is guided by public health, stringent, and consistent.”
Virgin Atlantic was one of the first to celebrate the news, tweeting: “Yeeha! It’s the announcement we’ve all been waiting for. The US is reopening from the 8th November for fully vaccinated travellers from the UK, and we can’t wait to fly you there.”
The White House official also told CNN that all WHO-approved vaccines, including AstraZeneca, will be accepted: “CDC has already informed airlines that all FDA approved and authorized vaccines, as well as all vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the WHO will be accepted for air travel. We anticipate the same will be true at the land border,” the official said.
Travel from the UK to the US has been frozen for non-residents since March 2020, thanks to a series of presidential proclamations.
Then-President Donald Trump initially limited travel from China before banning countries from the Schengen Zone, as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. President Joe Biden’s administration has maintained these tight restrictions.
Lifting the travel ban will impact not just Europe and the UK but China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India, as long as those travelers show proof of being fully vaccinated.
For those who have had the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet approved in the US, early reports suggest that anyone with a World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved vaccine will suffice for entry once the ban is lifted, and this includes AstraZeneca.
Here’s what you need to know about UK-US travel this autumn and winter.
Table of Contents
How important is UK-US travel?
The market is huge. In 2019, nearly four million Britons travelled to the US, according to the UK’s Foreign Office, while 4.5 million visits were made from the US to the UK, according to figures from VisitBritain.
Pre-pandemic, London-New York was one of the busiest international air corridors in the world (as well as being important economically), with around three million passengers annually.
What are the entry requirements for the US currently?
A ban on travel from the UK to the US was introduced on 16 March 2020. The presidential proclamation of 14 March banned UK travellers from entering the US because their presence “threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security”.
It prevents holidays and non-essential business or family trips to the US. The principle exception is: “any alien whose entry would be in the national interest.”
According to the UK’s Foreign Office advice, British nationals who have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, China and South Africa in the previous 14 days will not be granted entry.
Anyone arriving from elsewhere will be subject to usual entry rules: either with a visa or with an Esta visa waiver.
These rules don’t apply to US citizens and permanent residents of the US, as well as close family members and other limited visa holders.
Is the UK allowing travel to the US?
The US was on the UK’s amber list during the traffic light travel system, from May to October 2021.
On Friday 17 September, it was announced that the UK’s green and amber lists would be scrapped from 4 October.
As of 4am on 4 October, the US is on the UK’s “ROW” list, the list of “rest of the world” destinations that are not on the no-go red list, despite UK travellers not being allowed into the US.
This means that, should the US open up to fully vaccinated UK arrivals, they will not have to self-isolate on return – but will still have to take a day two test after returning.
However, the UK’s rules have been softened to allow fully jabbed Americans arriving in the country to swerve quarantine.
On 28 July, transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that from 4am Monday 2 August, travellers who have proof of being vaccinated in the US, with a further two weeks for the jabs to take effect, would be able to avoid quarantine. They are now treated the same as people who have been fully jabbed by the NHS when entering the UK from an amber list country.
At present, US arrivals must provide a “test to fly” before being allowed to travel to the UK, and must also prebook a PCR test for after their arrival.
US travellers who aren’t fully vaccinated must quarantine for 10 days upon entry to the UK and take a further PCR on day eight of self-isolation; arrivals in England may also opt to pay for another test on day five to end quarantine early if the result is negative.
When will the travel ban be lifted?
White House pandemic coordinator Jeff Zients told The New York Times that he expects fully vaccinated Europeans to be able to fly to the United States staring in “early November.”
“International travel is critical to connecting families and friends, to fuelling small and large businesses, to promoting the open exchange ideas and culture,” Mr Zients told The Times.
“That’s why, with science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel.”
Zients confirmed to press that all foreign passengers flying to the US will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of the flight on arrival.
Mr Zients said fully vaccinated passengers will not be required to quarantine.
It has been reported that airlines will also be required to collect contact information from international passengers to facilitate contact tracing.
On 4 October, a UK government source confirmed that they had not been given a date for the US travel ban being lifted.
In response to a query about the date for the resumption of travel, the US Department of Transportation said only: “We have no updates or new information at this time.”
Can Americans travel to the UK?
The CDC has raised the UK to its highest risk category for Covid, level 4 or “very high”. It warns travellers not to travel to the UK, but if they must, to be vaccinated first.
However, this is not a legal requirement, and is guidance only.
For fully vaccinated Americans, the path has been smoothed. As of 2 August, all double-vaccinated inbound US travellers can present a negative Covid test at the border and a negative PCR test within two days to avoid quarantine. Any unvaccinated US traveller will need to self-isolate for 10 days and take two PCR tests on days two and eight.