Traveling to the U.S. 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

International travel restrictions are currently in place across the United States. These measures have been introduced to protect the health and safety of American citizens and other residents during the pandemic.

The good news for travelers is that the U.S. government is continuing to accept and approve ESTA requests. Individuals who are currently unable to enter the country can still obtain the essential authorization to use at a later date.

Eligible travelers can request a travel permit online and head to the United States as soon as restrictions are lifted.

Which travelers are prohibited from entering the U.S. during COVID-19?

Foreign citizens who have been in or passed through any of the following nations in the past 14 days are temporarily unable to travel to the United States:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • China (People’s Rep.)
  • Czechia
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Iran
  • Ireland (Rep.)
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • The United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe. For other exceptions see below)

Transit through an American airport is also banned if any of the above countries have been visited in the last 2 weeks.

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

Can I travel to the United States during Coronavirus?

Generally speaking, passengers who have visited the aforementioned countries in the past 14 days cannot enter the U.S. However, there are exceptions.

U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and their close family members are exempt from the travel ban and may enter the United States through one of the designated airports. There are also exemptions for holders of certain types of visas or special permission from the U.S. government.

Travelers from the United Kingdom may reach the U.S. if:

  • They hold a negative Coronavirus Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) or a viral antigen test result. The test must have been taken at most 3 days before departure from the UK
  • They have filled out a disclosure and attestation form before departure, which can be found online and at the airport in the UK

This does not apply to those who have transited through the UK for up to 24 hours and to passengers younger than 2 years of age.

Travel restrictions are under constant review as the situation continues to evolve and may be updated at short notice. Overseas visitors must check the latest rules before making any arrangements.

Are ESTA Applications Being Approved During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Visa-exempt foreign citizens can use their approved ESTA visa waiver to go to the U.S. despite coronavirus provided they are 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 U.S. 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 has expired.

Travel ban breaches

Anyone who is subject to an entry ban and attempts to enter the U.S. 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 U.S. even if they present a negative test result.

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

Is my U.S. visa valid to travel during the pandemic?

This depends on the type of visa as well as the recent travels and departure point of the visa holder. See above to find out what countries that you have entered recently may prevent you from visiting the U.S. with your visa during the pandemic.

Please note: DV-1, DV-2, and DV-3 visas granted after September 4, 2020, are no longer valid. DV-1, DV-2, and DV-3 visas issued after such date with the annotation “Entry Subject to PP 10014” are not accepted for entry until March 31, 2021.

COVID-19 U.S. Entry Requirements

Foreign citizens who are not affected by the current entry bans and wish to travel to the United States during the pandemic may be subject to additional safety protocol on arrival.

State-specific restrictions are in place across the U.S. Travelers must check the requirements for their final destination, including:

  • Quarantine and self-isolation
  • COVID-19 test result
  • Airport screening procedures

As always, foreign citizens will be asked to show their passport with attached travel authorization.

Do I need to take a Covid-19 test before traveling to the U.S.?

Yes, the U.S. authorities have confirmed that visitors from abroad have to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the United States’ territory. This measure is intended to prevent the virus from further spreading and will come into effect starting January 26, 2021.

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

Foreigners should check the quarantine requirements for whichever of the U.S. 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.

U.S. citizens and permanent residents

U.S. 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 U.S. During the Coronavirus pandemic

Airlines and airports have put measures in place to make flying to the U.S. 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 U.S., travelers must follow all the COVID-19 health and safety protocols 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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