Traveling to the US During COVID-19

traveling to the us during covid19

The United States of America has introduced a number of temporary entry restrictions in response to COVID-19. These measures are part of international efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Many travelers now have questions regarding who can enter America and under what conditions. This article provides answers to the most common queries including information about:

  • Current travel bans
  • Entry and quarantine requirements
  • ESTA applications and extensions during COVID-19

United States Entry Restrictions Due to Coronavirus

There are now restrictions on entering the US from areas of the world with high rates of coronavirus. Limiting travel is one of the most effective ways to halt the spread of the virus, preventing individuals from high-risk areas crossing the border is a strategy that is being used by many governments during the pandemic.

These entry bans are temporary. Normal visa requirements will resume as soon as it is considered safe to welcome back foreigners from areas currently considered high-risk.

Which travelers are prohibited from entering the US during COVID-19?

Foreign citizens who have been in or transited through any of the following countries in the last 14 days are currently unable to enter the United States:

  • Brazil
  • China
  • European Schengen Area
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • UK

It is also not possible to transit through the US if one of these countries has been visited within the last 2 weeks.

This list is regularly reviewed and updated, travelers should ensure they have the latest information before making any arrangements.

US citizens and permanent residents

The ban does not apply to US citizens and permanent residents and their close family members. Such travelers are permitted to enter the US through one of the specified airports:

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Boston (BOS)
  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Detroit (DTW)
  • Honolulu (HNL)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • New York (JFK or EWR)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Washington (IAD)

Are ESTA Applications Being Approved During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Visa-exempt foreign citizens can use their approved ESTA visa waiver to go to the US despite coronavirus provided they have not from and have not been to any of the high-risk countries in the last 14 days.

Travelers must meet all the ESTA requirements and are advised to consult state-specific advisories to check their eligibility during these unprecedented times. Entry restrictions are subject to change at short notice.

Eligible foreigners can still apply for ESTA, even if they don’t plan to enter the United States during the restrictions: ESTA is valid for 2 years from the issue date. ESTA applications for passport holders from banned countries will also be processed, ready to use once the restrictions are lifted.

Can the United States cancel my ESTA due to the COVID pandemic?

Existing ESTA visa waivers held by passport holders from currently banned countries will not be canceled but they cannot be used to travel to the US during this period.

As ESTA is valid for 2 years, anyone with an existing authorization will be able to use it once restrictions are eased, provided neither the ESTA nor the associated passport have expired.

Travel ban breaches

Anyone who is subject to an entry ban and attempts to enter the US may have their ESTA canceled. Providing a negative COVID-19 test is not grounds for exemption. ESTA holders who have been in a high-risk area cannot travel to the US even if they present a negative test result.

ESTA visa waivers which are canceled due to breaches of restrictions will not be refunded.

Can I extend my ESTA period of stay in the US due to coronavirus?

The US government released a statement on April 17th announcing a 30-day extension for ESTA holders who are unable to leave the United States due to coronavirus restrictions.

This flexibility is helpful for foreigners affected by flight cancellations, travel bans, or illness. Visitors who require an ESTA extension should contact a local Customs and Border Protection port of entry or the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Traveling to the US During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Travelers who are not banned from entering or transiting the US must have a visa or ESTA visa waiver before departure.

Normal US entry restrictions and requirements apply to foreign citizens who are currently able to travel. Overseas tourists and business people from visa-exempt nations can stay in the US for up to 90 days, or transit through an American airport, by registering with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

Passport holders from non-exempt countries and individuals who wish to stay for longer than 3 months, or other purposes, should apply for the relevant visa.

Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 before traveling to the US?

Some US states require a negative COVID-19 test result taken in the last 72 hours. Travelers must check the travel advisory for the state they are arriving into. After arriving in the USA, passengers may be subject to additional safety measures such as temperature checks.

Travelers from banned countries are reminded that having a negative test result will not grant them entry to the US at this time.

Will I be quarantined if I travel to the United States?

Foreigners should check the quarantine requirements for whichever of the US states they are visiting as rules vary.

Even where self-isolation is not mandatory, the recommendations for people traveling to the USA during the COVID-19 pandemic include staying at home whenever possible for 14 days after arrival. This advice comes from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Quarantine is mandatory if an individual experiences symptoms or has been in contact with an infected individual.

US citizens and permanent residents

US citizens and permanent residents who can return to the States from high-risk nations will not be quarantined unless they have been in contact with a coronavirus patient.

How to travel safely to the US During the Coronavirus pandemic

Airlines and airports have put measures in place to make flying to the US during Covid as safe as possible. Passengers are asked to follow safety protocol, this includes:

  • Correct use of a face mask covering the nose and mouth at all times
  • Wash hands regularly, use alcohol-based hand gel when soap and water not available
  • Maintain a safe distance from other passengers when boarding and disembarking the aircraft
  • Not to travel if feeling at all unwell, especially with COVID symptoms

By following these standard procedures, traveling can be made safer for fellow passengers and airline staff.

After arriving in the US, travelers must follow all the COVID-19 health and safety protocol currently in place. Depending on the state, this may include physical distancing, wearing or face masks in public spaces, and reduced social gatherings.

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