On 20 September, the US government announced an end to its travel ban on UK citizens, with fully vaccinated travellers to be allowed entry from November.
White House pandemic coordinator Jeff Zients confirmed the easing of restrictions, telling The New York Times that he expected fully vaccinated Europeans to be able to fly to the United States staring in “early November.”
On 15 October, the White House confirmed that fully vaccinated foreign nationals, including Britons, will be able to visit the US from 8 November.
“The US’ new travel policy that requires vaccination for foreign national travelers to the United States will begin on Nov 8,” tweeted Kevin Munoz, White House assistant press secretary.
“This announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel. This policy is guided by public health, stringent, and consistent.”
The transatlantic airline Virgin Atlantic was one of the first to celebrate the news, tweeting: “Yeeha! It’s the announcement we’ve all been waiting for. The US is reopening from the 8th November for fully vaccinated travellers from the UK, and we can’t wait to fly you there.”
Yeeha! It's the announcement we've all been waiting for. 🇺🇸
The US is reopening from the 8th November for fully vaccinated travellers from the UK, and we can’t wait to fly you there.
Where will you be going first?
— virginatlantic (@VirginAtlantic) October 15, 2021
A White House official also told CNN that all World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved vaccines, including AstraZeneca, will be accepted.
AstraZeneca has not yet been approved in the US, which had caused some concern for potential travellers to the US in the run-up to the reopening.
“CDC (The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) has already informed airlines that all FDA approved and authorized vaccines, as well as all vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the WHO will be accepted for air travel. We anticipate the same will be true at the land border,” said the official.
Travel from the UK to the US has been frozen for non-residents since March 2020, thanks to a series of presidential proclamations.
Then-President Donald Trump initially limited travel from China before banning countries from the Schengen Zone, as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. President Joe Biden’s administration has maintained these tight restrictions.
Lifting the travel ban will impact not just Europe and the UK but China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India, as long as those travelers show proof of being fully vaccinated.
What will the new entry requirements be?
The White House has not confirmed the full travel rules for vaccinated travellers to the US from 8 November.
It is understood that double jabbed travellers will be able to enter with a negative result from a PCR or antigen test taken within the 72 hours before travel.
During the 20 September announcement, it was also suggested that passengers will have to give their US-side contact information to their airline on the journey via some sort of health questionnaire, for tracking and tracing purposes.
Are flights operating from the UK to the US?
Transatlantic airlines have been operating flights over the past several months to repatriate Americans in the UK, and for vaccinated American tourists - who are allowed into the UK - to return home.
But services will increase significantly from the November reopening date onwards.
British Airways will be increasing the number of flights from the UK to city destinations including New York, which will initially be increasing to five a day in November, followed by eight in December.
The airline will also be operating double-daily services from the UK to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas and Miami, as well as daily services to Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Atlanta, Denver and Houston.
In October and November, BA will also restart services to Austin, Orlando, Tampa, San Diego, Las Vegas and Baltimore; while in December it will resume services to Nashville and New Orleans.
Virgin Atlantic was already flying to New York, LA and San Francisco and will be restarting its Heathrow flights Las Vegas and Orlando from 8 November, as well as Manchester to Orlando and New York on the same date.
The airline’s CEO Shai Weiss says: “We’ve been steadily ramping up flying to destinations such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and we can’t wait to fly our customers safely to their favourite US cities, on holiday or to reconnect with friends, loved ones and colleagues.”
United, American Airlines and JetBlue also have some services from London to the US.
How important is UK-US travel?
The market is huge. In 2019, nearly four million Britons travelled to the US, according to the UK’s Foreign Office, while 4.5 million visits were made from the US to the UK, according to figures from VisitBritain.
Pre-pandemic, London-New York was one of the busiest international air corridors in the world (as well as being important economically), with around three million passengers annually.
What are the current entry requirements for the US?
A ban on travel from the UK to the US was introduced on 16 March 2020. The presidential proclamation of 14 March banned UK travellers from entering the US because their presence “threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security”.
It prevents holidays and non-essential business or family trips to the US. The principle exception is: “any alien whose entry would be in the national interest.”
According to the UK’s Foreign Office advice, British nationals who have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, China and South Africa in the previous 14 days will not be granted entry.
Anyone arriving from elsewhere will be subject to usual entry rules: either with a visa or with an Esta visa waiver.
These rules don’t apply to US citizens and permanent residents of the US, as well as close family members and other limited visa holders.
Is the UK allowing travel to the US?
The US was on the UK’s amber list during the traffic light travel system, from May to October 2021.
On Friday 17 September, it was announced that the UK’s green and amber lists would be scrapped from 4 October.
As of 4 October, the US is on the UK’s “ROW” list, the list of “rest of the world” destinations that are not on the no-go red list, despite UK travellers not being allowed into the US.
This means that, when the US opens up to fully vaccinated UK arrivals on 8 November, they will not have to self-isolate on return - but will still have to take a day two test after returning.
The UK’s rules have already been eased to allow fully jabbed Americans arriving in the country to swerve quarantine.
On 28 July, transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that from 2 August, travellers who have proof of being vaccinated in the US, with a further two weeks for the jabs to take effect, would be able to avoid quarantine. They are now treated the same as people who have been fully jabbed by the NHS when entering the UK from an amber list country, meaning booking a “day two” test to be taken within the two days after arrival.
US travellers who aren’t fully vaccinated must quarantine for 10 days upon entry to the UK and take a further PCR on day eight of self-isolation; arrivals in England may also opt to pay for another test on day five to end quarantine early if the result is negative.
Can Americans travel to the UK?
The CDC has raised the UK to its highest risk category for Covid, level 4 or “very high”. It warns travellers not to travel to the UK, but if they must, to be vaccinated first.
However, this is not a legal requirement, and is guidance only.
For fully vaccinated Americans, the path has been smoothed. As of 2 August, all double-vaccinated inbound US travellers can present a negative Covid test at the border and a negative PCR test within two days to avoid quarantine. Any unvaccinated US traveller will need to self-isolate for 10 days and take two PCR tests on days two and eight.