The worldwide outbreak of corona (Covid-19) has had a great impact on travel to the USA. Even for travellers that already possess an ESTA. On this page you can read the actual state of affairs, as well as the expectations surrounding travel to the United States with an ESTA and the coronavirus. All information on this page has been updated as of 30 March 2020.
Is there corona in the USA?
Yes. At this point, the United States of America has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country in the world. As of 30 March 2020, over 143.000 cases have been reported. More than 2500 has died of the virus. The states New York, Washington and California have been hit the hardest, but all states have confirmed infections.
Due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) travelling to the USA with an ESTA isn’t always possible.
Are ESTA applications currently being approved?
Yes. Despite the outbreak of corona you can still submit an ESTA application. The applications are generally processed with the same speed as normal. Because the exact travel plans don’t have to be known yet at the time of applying, and an ESTA is valid for two years, plenty of applications are still being processed and approved. If you plan to travel to the USA within the next two years, you can still apply for an ESTA as normal.
Can I still use my ESTA to travel to the USA despite the coronavirus?
Currently, all approved ESTA permits are valid for up to two years after the moment of approval. Only if the passport with which the ESTA was applied for expires earlier does the validity expire earlier as well. Corona does not change anything about this. However, if you possess a valid ESTA, this does not automatically mean you can travel to the United States. The US government has taken a number of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. This includes a temporary travel ban for people that have been to risk areas.
Travel ban USA
The Trump government currently does not exclude travellers based on their nationality, but it does do so based on their travel history. Even if they possess an ESTA they can still be denied entry into the United States, due to the risk of spreading the coronavirus. This temporary measure is better known as the travel ban. Until 12 April 2020, the travel ban means that no travellers will be allowed on US territory who in the 14 days prior to their trip have been to the United Kingdom, Ireland or any of the listed countries below:
|Anyone who has been in one of these countries in the last 14 days is subject to the US travel ban|
* excluding overseas territories outside of Europe
Exceptions to the American travel ban include citizens of the United States and people with the American nationality, as well as their spouses. However, there are only a limited number of flights and airports that these excluded travellers can make use of.
Currently, there are a lot of travellers in North and South America that want to come back to the UK or Ireland as soon as possible. Due to corona, many flights have been cancelled. Because of this, sometimes less logical routes are used, which can often include a transfer in the US. Travellers that haven’t been to one of the above-mentioned countries on the travel ban list can apply for an ESTA through the normal procedure, and travel back home through the United States.
Can my ESTA be cancelled??
If the American immigration service suspects that a traveller is not adhering to the travel ban, their ESTA will be cancelled. Once the traveller agrees to follow the rules set in place, they can apply for an ESTA again. In exceptional cases, an ESTA can be wrongfully cancelled. This can occur if the airline has incorrectly informed the American immigration service on whether the traveller has been to one of the 14 above mentioned countries in the past 14 days. Has you ESTA been wrongfully cancelled? Contact your airline and explain that you are not subject to the travel ban, and ask them to pass this on to the RCLG.
When can I safely travel to the USA again?
Unfortunately, it is currently not known when holidays and business trips with an ESTA will be possible again from the UK or Ireland. The current travel ban runs until 12 April 2020. However, it is expected that the travel ban and many other coronavirus measures will be extended. Furthermore, new measures might follow that can influence travel to the US with an ESTA. Keep an eye on this page in the coming weeks to stay informed of developments.
What do I do if I’m already in the USA?
If you are in the United States, the government does not as of yet advise British citizens to return immediately. However, you are advised to take certain precautions to reduce the chance of corona infection. These are basically the same as the ones the Department of Health uses for Brits inside the UK. On top of that, recommendations from local governments apply, which can differ per US state. At least observe the following guidelines to reduce the risk of corona infection:
- Avoid social contact and don’t visit vulnerable people
- Keep a minimum distance of one and a half meters from other people
- Don’t shake hands, anyone can potentially have corona
- Wash your hands multiple times a day (at least twenty seconds per wash) with soap
- Regularly clean your phone, it can also spread the coronavirus
- Cough and sneeze on the insides of your elbows
- Try to touch your face as little as possible
- Use paper tissues
Where can I recover the financial damages of corona?
An approved ESTA visa remains valid, despite the corona measures. Approved travel authorisations and visas can never be refunded, even if they are not (or cannot) be used. Many British travellers have travel insurances and cancelation insurances. It is currently unclear if these will reimburse damages as a result of corona. Many insurance companies evoke the ‘force majeure’ clause found in many insurance policies. Because of the sheer size of the financial consequences of corona, insurance companies simply don’t have the funds to finance all the claims for flights, hotel bookings and unused ESTA visas.
Disclaimer: this article is about the consequences corona has on travelling with an ESTA, and has been carefully put together based on available information. Regardless, no rights can be gained from this. Due to the speed with which corona spreads it cannot be guaranteed that this article will always contain the most up-to-date information.