From 8 November, tourists and business travellers are again welcome in the United States of America. A vaccination certificate, test certificate and an ESTA are required. Read on this page what other coronavirus rules you should take into account. Last change: 18-10-2021

Holiday and business trips permitted again from 8 November

Residents of the European Union and the United Kingdom may again go on holiday or business trips to the USA from 8 November. The American government announced this on 20 September 2021. This brings an end to the travel ban that was introduced over a year and a half ago to combat the coronavirus. COVID-19 has caused a lot of suffering and damage, but with the lifting of the travel ban, it seems that we are closer to a world without drastic coronavirus rules.

Starting November, it will no longer be necessary to go into quarantine, not on arrival in the USA and not after returning to the European Union or United Kingdom. However, a vaccination certificate must be presented before leaving for the United States, although some exceptions are made, such as for children under 12. Read below what else you need to bear in mind for a trouble-free holiday or business trip to the USA.

Apply for your ESTA in advance

First, you should apply for an ESTA well before you leave for the USA. An ESTA is a digital travel authorisation for tourists and business travellers, which you can easily apply for online. After it has been granted, your ESTA will be valid for two years, unless your passport expires earlier.

You can apply for your ESTA even before you have booked your trip. The ESTA form will ask you to estimate your date of arrival, but you can use the ESTA for multiple trips, and you never need to give an exact arrival date in advance. The US Immigration Service recommends that you apply for your ESTA as soon as you have the idea to travel to the United States.
Apply for your ESTA now

Arranging your vaccination certificate and test certificate

You can only travel to the United States for a holiday or business trip from November if you are fully vaccinated. An exception will be made for children under 12 years of age. The American immigration service will accept all coronavirus vaccines that have been used in the European Union and the United Kingdom. You must also take a coronavirus test just before departure. It is not yet known exactly how you will have to prove that you have been vaccinated and tested. In a weekʼs time, you will probably be able to read how to do so on this page.

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Returning to the UK

If you are fully vaccinated, you are not required to take a pre-departure test, and you also do not have to quarantine when returning to the UK. You must, however, book a day 2 COVID-19 test to be taken after your arrival, and fill out a passenger locator form before your departure.

Other coronavirus rules during your trip to the USA

Since 14 May 2021, people who have been fully vaccinated in the United States are no longer required to wear a face mask and keep a distance from each other. Face masks are only mandatory in crowded indoor areas, such as hospitals and public transport. Wearing a face mask is also mandatory during your flight to the USA and back.

Due to the coronavirus (Covid-19), travelling to the USA with an ESTA is not always possible.In November, the US COVID-19 travel ban will be lifted.

Travelling to the USA before November 2021

A travel ban is in force in the United States until November. The ban has nothing to do with your nationality, but instead targets your recent travel history. Have you visited the United Kingdom, Ireland or one of the other countries listed below in the 14 days prior to your departure to the USA? In that case, you may not travel to the United States for a holiday, business trip or transfer, even if you already have a valid ESTA or visa. However, there are some exceptions, read more about these below.

Until November 2021, the following applies: If you have been in one of the following countries during the past 14 days, you are not allowed to travel to the United States, even if you have an ESTA or visa:
The NetherlandsBelgiumAustria
BrazilChinaDenmark
EstoniaFinlandFrance
GermanyGreeceHungary
IcelandIndiaIran
IrelandItalyLatvia
LiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourg
MaltaNorwayPoland
PortugalSlovakiaSlovenia
SpainCzech RepublicSweden
SwitzerlandUnited Kingdom*South Africa

* excluding the overseas territories outside Europe

Exceptions to the travel ban

Do you wish to travel to the USA with an ESTA before November 2021, and have you been in one of the countries listed above in the 14 days prior to your trip? Then you may only travel if you can make use of one of the exceptions to the travel ban listed below.

US citizens and their family members

Exceptions to the travel ban to the USA with an ESTA apply to US residents and people with US nationality, as well as their children, spouse or partner. In addition, an exception is made for parents or legal guardians, and unmarried siblings of US citizens under the age of 21 or of US citizens under the age of 21.

These people may travel to the USA with an ESTA without additional permission from the embassy. However, it is recommended that you bring a document with you to prove that you are related to an American citizen (e.g. a birth or marriage certificate and a photo of the Green Card or American passport).

National Interest Exception (NIE)

In addition, exceptions may be made for people whose trip to the USA is in the country’s national interest according to Homeland Security (National Interest Exception, abbreviated to NIE). Exceptions are made for, among others, students travelling with an F1, M1 or J1 visa, journalists, academics, persons supporting the vital infrastructure (sectors such as defence, energy, agriculture and health care) and highly qualified persons travelling for humanitarian purposes or in connection with American public health or national security.

Travellers who wish to apply for a visa for one of the above purposes and believe that their purpose of travel to the United States is in the country’s national interest, or have another very compelling reasons for travelling, should contact the Visa Section of the US Embassy. Additionally, travellers who do not require a visa but only an ESTA, whose trip to the USA is in the country’s national interest or who have another very urgent reason for travelling, can apply for an exception at the US Embassy by filling out the Nonimmigrant Visa Unit Contact Form, clearly explaining why they think they are covered by the exception and adding supporting documents.

Mandatory PCR test and quarantine

Since 26 January 2021, all travellers older than 2 years who are allowed to travel to the United States through an exception must show a negative result of a PCR or antigen test (on paper or electronically) in order to check in for a flight to the USA. This test must have been taken a maximum of 3 days before departure. In lieu of the test, individuals who have been infected with the coronavirus in the 90 days prior to departure to the USA may also present proof of infection and confirmation from a health authority that the individual is fit to travel again.

Travellers who have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks are not required to undergo quarantine upon arrival in the United States. Individuals who have not yet been fully vaccinated will go into self-isolation for 7 days after arrival. Everyone - including vaccinated travellers - must be tested 3 to 5 days after arrival. Those who do not get tested will have to spend 10 days in self-isolation.

Can my ESTA be cancelled?

If the US Immigration Service suspects that a traveller is not complying with the travel ban, his or her ESTA will be cancelled. As soon as the traveller again complies with the rules, a new ESTA may be applied for. In exceptional cases, ESTAs are incorrectly cancelled (set to "cancelled" or "expired" status). This happens if the airline has not correctly informed the US immigration authorities that a resident of one of the above countries has not been there for at least 14 days. Has your ESTA been cancelled wrongly? Contact your airline, explain that you are not covered by the travel ban, and ask the airline to report this to the RCLG.

Disclaimer: This page about travel to the USA with an ESTA during the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is regularly updated with current information. However, due to the complexity and changeability of coronavirus rules, this page cannot be guaranteed to be complete and current at all times, and therefore no rights can be derived from it.