The US has now lifted its 20-month travel ban on non-essential visitors - by allowing in fully vaccinated tourists from countries including the UK.
On 15 October, the White House confirmed that fully vaccinated foreign nationals, including Britons, would be able to visit the US from 8 November onwards.
“The US’ new travel policy that requires vaccination for foreign national travelers to the United States will begin on Nov 8,” tweeted Kevin Munoz, White House assistant press secretary.
“This announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel. This policy is guided by public health, stringent, and consistent.”
A White House official confirmed that all World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved vaccines, including AstraZeneca, will be accepted.
AstraZeneca has not yet been approved in by the US’s own Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which had caused some concern for potential travellers in the run-up to the reopening.
“CDC (The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) 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,” said the official.
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.
The travel ban lift has impacted not just Europe and the UK but China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India.
What will the new entry requirements be?
As of 12.01am on 8 November, fully vaccinated foreigners from anywhere in the world are able to visit the US once again – subject, of course, to complying with existing immigration regulations, including presenting a valid visa or Esta (America’s online entry permit). They will not need to quarantine on arrival.
To qualify as “fully vaccinated”, you must have had a full course of one of seven approved vaccines, with the second dose given at least 14 days before your arrival.
These are: Oxford AstraZeneca, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Moderna, and Pfizer/BioNTech, as well as two Chinese vaccines: Sinopharm and Sinovac.
For people who fly to the US, the system will be policed by the airlines. At land borders, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will check paperwork.
The traveller must show a “record issued by an official source (eg public health agency, government agency) in the country where the vaccine was given”.
From a British perspective, the NHS Covid pass – available free from the NHS in the traveller’s UK nation – should suffice, and it is very likely that digital proof will also be accepted, but play it safe by printing out a copy.
Visitors must also present evidence of a negative PCR test re
Airline passengers must take a Covid test no more than three days before travel. A cheap and rapid antigen (lateral flow) test is acceptable.
The CDC explains the timeframe as: “The three-day period is the three days before the flight’s departure.
“For example, if a passenger’s flight is at 1pm on a Friday, the passenger could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Tuesday or after.”
Under-18s who travel to the United States with a fully vaccinated parent or guardian need not be vaccinated. However, the parent or guardian must fill out this attestation, and must take a Covid test on day three or five after arrival in the country.
At the same time on 8 November, land travel from Canada and Mexico will open up for non-essential journeys; at present people can fly from either country to the US but cannot travel by road or rail. At present there is no requirement to test for arrivals by land.
Are flights operating from the UK to the US?
Transatlantic airlines have been operating flights over the past several months to repatriate Americans in the UK, and for vaccinated American tourists - who are allowed into the UK - to return home.
But services will increase significantly from the November reopening date onwards.
British Airways will be increasing the number of flights from the UK to city destinations including New York, which will initially be increasing to five a day in November, followed by eight in December.
The airline will also be operating double-daily services from the UK to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas and Miami, as well as daily services to Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Atlanta, Denver and Houston.
In October and November, BA will also restart services to Austin, Orlando, Tampa, San Diego, Las Vegas and Baltimore; while in December it will resume services to Nashville and New Orleans.
Virgin Atlantic was already flying to New York, LA and San Francisco and will be restarting its Heathrow flights Las Vegas and Orlando from 8 November, as well as Manchester to Orlando and New York on the same date.
The airline’s CEO Shai Weiss says: “We’ve been steadily ramping up flying to destinations such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and we can’t wait to fly our customers safely to their favourite US cities, on holiday or to reconnect with friends, loved ones and colleagues.”
United, American Airlines and JetBlue also have some services from London to the US.
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.
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 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.
This means that, when the US opens up to fully vaccinated UK arrivals on 8 November, they will not have to self-isolate on return - but will still have to take a day two test after returning.
The UK’s rules had already been eased in August to allow fully jabbed Americans arriving in the country to swerve quarantine.
On 28 July, transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that from 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, meaning booking a “day two” test to be taken within the two days after 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.
Can Americans travel to the UK?
As of 19 July, the UK is on the CDC’s 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.
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