Sources near the White House say that the Biden administration is looking into the possibility of lifting the US travel ban, which currently applies to the EU and the UK among others, in May this year. Travel with an ESTA would then be possible again.
US travel ban
In March 2020, the President of the United States at that time, Donald Trump, announced a ban on travellers from, among others, the Schengen area. This ban meant that the borders of the United States of America were closed to almost all people who had been in one of these countries in the 14 days prior to their trip to the USA, even if they had a valid ESTA or a valid visa. The travel ban was soon extended to the UK and Ireland. Although this measure was initially intended to only last 30 days, the travel ban has already been extended several times, and on 25 January 2021 it was extended once more by the new President Joe Biden.
US vaccination programme in full swing
Currently, the USA is the country with the most cases and deaths of coronavirus. However, the country also has the highest number of vaccinations in the world. Currently, more than 170 million people in the USA have had at least one vaccination dose, and almost 65 million Americans (almost 20% of the American population) have been fully vaccinated.
President Biden had stated at the beginning of his presidency that his goal was to reach 100 million vaccination shots in his first 100 days as president. This goal was reached in just 58 days, and Biden has since announced that he will extend this goal to 200 million shots. Currently, the USA seems well on its way to achieving this goal as well.
Travel to the USA soon possible?
President Biden raised the hope that Americans would be able to get together again on 4 July, the American Independence Day, without having to worry about the coronavirus. In other words, the US government hopes to significantly loosen, or even lift, domestic coronavirus measures before the summer. Nevertheless, there are scientists who urge the President not to be too hasty because there is always the possibility that new mutations will emerge.
As far as international flights are concerned, the US government has not yet announced anything concrete. However, sources near the White House say that the US government is considering phasing out the international travel ban starting mid-May 2021. The measures that would be incrementally lifted are:
- The restrictions on crossing the borders with Canada and Mexico
- The ban on commercial passenger flights from the United Kingdom, European Union and Brazil
There are no reports yet about possible additional restrictions that travellers to the USA may face if the travel ban is indeed lifted. President Trudeau of neighbouring Canada is clearly less enthusiastic. He recently said that he could not yet give a date on which the travel restrictions for his country would be reduced.
Vaccination passport and ESTA
One means by which the USA and other countries hope to keep travel safe after the pandemic is a mandatory vaccination passport or coronavirus passport for incoming travellers. This is a document with which you can show that you have been vaccinated, or have developed immunity against the coronavirus in some other way (e.g. through previous infection). The EU and the United Kingdom have also announced that they are working on this measure.
ESTA application online
For travel to the USA, travellers also need another document: the ESTA (or visa). This is not a physical document but a digital travel authorisation that allows foreigners to travel to the United States. The ESTA is a way for the American immigration authorities to screen travellers before they board the plane. Submitting an ESTA application can easily be done by filling out the online application form. Once approved, the ESTA is automatically linked to your passport. An approved ESTA is valid for two years.