Coronavirus: Can I travel to the USA?

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The coronavirus has hit virtually every country around the world, claiming thousands of lives in the process. As a result, almost all countries have issued strict lockdowns, meaning nobody gets in or out. However, many of these countries have all implemented their own particular forms of quarantine.

Some of these are stricter than others, while some countries barely seem to be taking any actions at all. As such, getting a clear view of what is and isn’t allowed for tourists can be difficult, for instance when planning a trip to the USA. Always a popular holiday destination, the USA has also implemented a lockdown under the Trump administration. With conflicting reports of borders opening again, is it possible to travel to the USA?

Trump says: No Europeans welcome

After it became clear that the coronavirus was set to become a global pandemic, the US government took swift actions to bar any incoming travellers. Aside from African and Asian countries, this travel ban was also specifically targeted at the European Union. The rule is simple: if you’ve been in any country in Europe in the fourteen days preceding your planned trip to the USA, you won’t be allowed into the country. This includes the UK. It doesn’t matter if you have a valid visa or ESTA. The only exceptions are for people with the American nationality, and their spouses.

What about my ESTA?

The ESTA, the most popular travel permit for European travellers headed to the USA, can in theory still be applied for. The application will be processed as normal, and if the US immigration service sees no fault in the information you provide, it might even get approved. But this doesn’t mean that you will be allowed to enter the USA. The coronavirus travel ban trumps all other rules. Whether you have a valid visa or ESTA, whether you’re from Europe, Africa or Asia, if your particular case falls under the travel ban you will not be allowed to enter the United States.

However, this doesn’t mean that the ESTA is completely useless. The primary reason it still has value is because an ESTA is always valid for two full years from the day that it is issued. This means that for trips planned later this year, or perhaps even in over a year’s time, an ESTA can be applied for as normal.

What are the prospects?

It is no secret that the USA has been the hardest hit country during the coronavirus pandemic. The death toll is reaching a staggering 100.000, and millions have had to apply for social security as they’ve been losing their jobs en masse. The thought that the current travel ban might get lifted anytime soon seems like a faint dream. Domestically, however, calls have been starting to rise for the strict quarantine measures to be lifted. The US president Donald Trump seems to agree with these sentiments, as he himself has voiced his displeasure at how things are being handled. The most immediate solution to everyone’s problems would be a vaccine, but it is expected this will come next year at the earliest. Until then, each country around the world will have to decide for themselves how and when they will start to loosen their travel bans and open up their borders again. If the USA is any indication, this might be sooner than many people expect.

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