International travel: U.S. easing restrictions for vaccinated tourists
Foreign nationals will need to show proof of vaccination before getting on planes to the U.S.
Staff video, USA TODAY
- White House officials remain mum on a date or even when a date will be announced to broadly reopen U.S. borders to vaccinated international visitors.
- Austria’s ambassador to the United States, Martin Weiss, told a traveler who reached out via Twitter on Friday that the target date is Nov. 1.
- If the date isn’t Nov. 1 or soon after, travelers who already purchased tickets for those dates will be scrambling to rebook flights and change other travel plans, a costly prospect.
“Early November.” That’s as specific as the White House was last week when it announced plans to broadly reopen U.S. borders to vaccinated international visitors. It’s been a week since then and no date has been specified.
With November only a month and a few days away, travelers in Europe, the United Kingdom and other places the travel ban covers, are desperately seeking a specific dateso they can make or adjust travel plans and time off from work.
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Travelers are pleading for information on Twitter, regularly singling out government officials in the United States and abroad.
“Give us a date,” a woman from Cologne, Germany, said in a Monday tweet calling out President Joe Biden, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and the White House.
White House officials remain mum on a date or even when a date will be announced, and airline and tourism officials say they have no details.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only it expects to have an order requiring airlines to collect passenger information for COVID-19 contact tracing – a key part of the government’s border reopening plan – by mid-October, spokesperson Scott Pauley said.
Government agencies give you the ’round robin’
San Francisco photographer Elena Graham, whose partner lives in Norway, is frustrated that she can’t get any answers.
“Everyone passes you to another department,” she said. “The CDC says it’s the State Department. The State Department says its Health and Human Services. They say it’s Homeland Security. It’s like round-robin.”
Graham and her partner, who has not been to the United States since 2019, started shopping for an airline ticket from Norway to San Francisco after the Sept. 20 announcement of the border reopening.
They were initially hesitant to book but decided to buy a ticket for Nov. 9 when they watched prices spike.
“We felt some urgency to book something,” she said.
They paid $1,000 for a one-way ticket with more flexibility and have had their fingers crossed since. Graham’s partner already took time off in November and sublet his apartment. They originally planned to get him to the United States via another country after quarantining therefor two weeks, a so-called third country trip.
“It’s just hard to even get your hopes up or believe that you’ll be together when there’s nothing definitive,” Graham said.
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The couple already had travel plans dashed this year. Graham was able to visit Norway last year when the country reopened travel to partners and was planning to return this year since the U.S. borders were still closed to her partner. But Norway tightened entry restrictions in January, laying out a detailed plan for when they would lift again.
“They would put out a target date. It would get to that date (and nothing changed.) It went that way for the entire year,” she said. “It feels a bit traumatic and very hard to feel any sort of trust in something so vague.”
When will the US travel ban lift? Online speculation centers on Nov. 1
Travelers trying to reunite have become online sleuths, looking for any sign of a reopening date. Late last week, a blogger tracking the UK-US reopening for travelers shared a screenshot of a direct message conversation with United Airlines that said the U.S. plan to “lift geographic travel ban restrictions” beginning Nov. 1.
United spokesperson Nicole Carriere said there is no update to the timing beyond the government’s announcement of early November.
However, Austria’s ambassador to the United States, Martin Weiss, told a traveler who reached out via Twitter on Friday that the target date is Nov. 1.
Travel analyst Henry Harteveldt, co-founder of Atmosphere Research, said the longer the government goes without setting a date, the harder it will be for travelers and airlines.
“There’s literally no time to waste,” he said. “There will be chaos and confusion the longer they wait.”
If the date isn’t Nov. 1, for example, some travelers who purchased tickets in the first week of November will be scrambling to rebook flights and change other travel plans, a costly prospect. And airlines will be inundated with calls.
“It’s really disappointing to me about how poorly this has been managed and communicated,” Harteveldt said. “I appreciate that there are a lot of details that have to be factored into the process, but we should know by now what date in November international visitors will be permitted to travel to the United States.”
When the US travel ban is lifted what will the entry requirements be?
- Whatever the November date, travelers will need to show proof of full vaccination prior to boarding U.S.-bound planes.
- A COVID-19 test will also continue to be required within three days of departure and proof of negative results must be shown.
- Enhanced contact tracing and masking will also be required, but there will be no quarantine mandate.
- Airlines will ask to see proof of vaccination before boarding. The U.S. will likely accept vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization.
- American citizens won’t have to show proof of vaccination to board international flights home to the United States but will still be required to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken no more than three days before departure.
- Unvaccinated Americans will be required to take a COVID-19 test one day before departure – instead of the three-day requirement today – and provide proof they have a second test to take after arrival.
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