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What you need to know about the US’s new travel restrictions

8 Nov 2021 6 MIN READ

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What you need to know about the US’s new travel restrictions

The White House recently outlined new rules for travel to and from the US as flight restrictions lift for the first time in 19 months. These come into effect on Monday 8th November.

The travel and business industries have been calling for the ban to be lifted for some time and the average number of daily searches for US trips within TravelPerk has more than doubled since the date of reopening was announced.

Here’s an overview of the new travel restrictions and some tips for how to take them into account if you’re planning to travel to the US in the coming months.

The main changes coming into effect: 

Travel from 33 countries is back!

The United States will admit fully vaccinated air travelers from the 26 Schengen countries in Europe as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran, and Brazil.

Travelers must be fully vaccinated – with some exceptions 

Travelers are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they received a single shot of the Janssen vaccine or the second dose of other approved vaccines. Any vaccines approved by the US health regulators or the World Health Organisation will be accepted.

There are a few exceptions, and those in the categories below may be able to enter the United States without being fully immunized. These include anyone who:

  • Is under the age of 18
  • Comes from a country where the vaccination coverage is below 10% due to vaccine shortages
  • Cannot be immunized for medical reasons
  • Is traveling for emergency health or humanitarian reasons

Visitors in these categories must have a “specific and convincing” reason to enter the country.

A COVID-19 test is still needed for all travelers

Regardless of vaccination status, travelers need to get a viral test. Fully vaccinated travelers need to take the test no more than 3 days before departure, whilst those not fully vaccinated need to take the test no more than 1 day before travel. Details of what tests are allowed can be found on the CDC website.

Airlines will need to check vaccination statuses

Airlines will be required to check a traveler’s status before they can board any plane destined for the US. The proof of vaccination must have been released at least two weeks prior to the trip and must come from an official source.

An ESTA is still needed before you book

You must request and have a valid ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) before you book your flight. Your ESTA is valid for two years (providing you do not change your passport) and allows trips of up to 90 days for business or leisure

Unvaccinated US citizens can return

Those who are not fully vaccinated can return, provided they can show a negative COVID-19 test one day before departure and proof that they have purchased a COVID-19 test to take after arrival. 

Local restrictions differ by US state

The rules and regulations on distancing, mask-wearing, hospitality, and more may differ by state. The CDC also helps you find out the restrictions imposed by each specific state health department

Check out our top tips for travel to and from the US:

1. Check the risks and testing requirements before you make travel plans

Put travel safety first by booking your travel with a tool that gives you up-to-date travel restrictions information when you book. 

2. Keep a facemask handy – you’ll still need it

Many air travel carriers, public transport bodies, and indoor settings may still require the use of a face covering for your health and that of those around you. If you need some help in choosing the right masks for you, have a look at our handy guide to the best face masks to wear whilst traveling. Don’t forget to pack an extra one in your carry-on just in case!

3. Make your travel budget stretch further

Prices for hotels often fluctuate throughout the year, so setting fixed budgets for your trips can sometimes mean what is a bargain on one day is a premium on the next. Choosing a travel management tool that lets you set dynamic budgets can help you save and set more realistic travel budgets. 

4. Keep in control of who’s traveling and when

With the situation changing daily it can be hard to keep on top of changes and whether they affect your travelers. Make sure your travel provider can give you up-to-date information on how these restrictions could affect those traveling or about to travel.  

5. Review your office capacity and protocols

As people start visiting your offices again it’s important to make sure you’ve got the right capacity and protocols in place. TravelPerk can show you who is traveling to your offices and when so that you can make sure you’re prepared. 

6. Be flexible in case plans have to change

Flexibility was a challenge in business travel even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic! Different countries and regions are still dealing with vaccinations and outbreaks at different speeds, so it’s still a good idea to consider flexible fares and booking options so that you can adapt quickly if plans need to change. Sure, travel insurance is great. But flexibility is better. 

7. Reclaim VAT on any travel to Europe

Choosing more cost-effective options may make it easier to convince your company to get back travel. Did you know that if you’re traveling to Europe for a business you could reclaim VAT on many parts of your trip and save up to 25%? 

8. Business travel doesn’t have to cost the earth

78% of consumers wanted to see sustainable travel alternatives, according to a recent study from BCG, but access and cost are preventing them from taking action. Traveling for business can also be done in a sustainable way if you choose a provider that helps make sustainable choices and offset emissions. 

9. Give travelers the tools they need to keep safe

Give travelers a checklist of all the key regulations and safety measures they need to know about before and during their trips as well as a list of key contacts in case of emergency. Include all relevant information from all relevant medical and government bodies, e.g. the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and the State Department for US travelers.

Your travel provider can help

The good news if you’re thinking of restarting business travel to the US is that online travel platforms like Travelperk can help you with all of this and more. Our up-to-date travel restrictions information can help you stay up to date when you book, before and during your trip, and our flexible booking options mean that you can change or cancel at any time, no questions asked. With the world’s largest travel inventory, flexible budgeting, and VAT recovery services you can find the right trip options for you at a great price and claim money back. And we can help you offset the carbon footprint of your trips. We’ve even created the TravelSafe API, to allow our partners to offer accurate travel restrictions information to their customers.