News report | | 03/11/2021 | ±3 minutes reading time

On Monday, 25th of October, the U.S. government made new changes regarding the conditions for foreigners to enter the country. In this article, we summarise everything, from vaccines to visas.

Definitive date: 8th of November

When the US government announced that travel to the United States would once again be possible for European travellers, there was great excitement. For a long time, however, the White House refused to give a date on which European citizens could enter America again. Now, the American government has announced a definite date. From November 8th, European citizens with a valid visa or ESTA may travel to America. Travellers who want to enter the country before that date need a special permit, a National Interest Exception (NIE).

Rules from October 25th

On October 25th, the White House issued a statement. In this statement, a number of rules for travelling to America were adjusted. Currently, the following conditions apply:

  • Travellers have to be fully vaccinated. All vaccines used in Europe are accepted by the American government. You must be able to provide an official vaccination certificate.
  • Children under the age of 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement (previously this applied to children under the age of 12)
  • Travellers must take a corona test before departure. Both PCR and NAAT tests are accepted. Fully vaccinated travellers should take their test no more than 3 days before departure, unvaccinated travellers no more than 24 hours before departure.
  • You must apply for an ESTA or visa before departure

Unlike countries like Canada (ArriveCAN app) and India (Air Suvidha portal), America does not have a dedicated app or portal where you can upload your vaccination certificate and negative corona tests. The White House has said that airlines must check that the information on the vaccination certificate matches the information provided by the traveller (as stated on the ESTA, for example). They should also check that the certificate has been issued by an official health authority in the travellerʼs home country.

Children between the ages of 2 and 17 should also undertake a corona test before departure. If an unvaccinated child travels with a fully vaccinated adult, the same rules apply to the child as to fully vaccinated adults. This means that they must take a corona test no more than 3 days before departure. If both the child and the parent(s) are unvaccinated, the child must also take a corona test no more than 24 hours before departure.

Exception for countries with few vaccines

The White House is making an exception for travellers from countries with a low supply of vaccines. The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determines whether a country qualifies for this. The WHO has warned several times that many countries in Africa have a structural shortage of vaccines, largely because the vaccines are being bought up by richer countries. So America is clearly taking this into account. However, this exception only applies to travellers who are not travelling on a tourist visa.

ESTA or visa remains mandatory

The new travel regulations for the USA do not mean that the old conditions are no longer valid. The most important condition is that all travellers must have a valid ESTA or visa. Applying for an ESTA is easier and cheaper than applying for a visa. However, the conditions of the ESTA are much stricter. You will first have to check whether you are eligible for the ESTA at all, as it is only available to travellers from certain countries. Both UK and European nationals may use the ESTA system.

Should you not be eligible for ESTA, you can still apply for a visa at your local consulate or embassy. However, this is a lot more expensive and time-consuming than applying for an ESTA.