Coronavirus in the United States | Keep these things in mind
The outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in the USA naturally has consequences, including for travellers who want to visit the country. Currently, travelling to the USA from the United Kingdom or Ireland is only possible in exceptional situations and with a special permit. Travellers who have a valid ESTA or a US visa will also be denied entry because of the coronavirus. Nevertheless, travel authorisations (ESTA visa) are still issued by the American authorities. Here you can read more about the coronavirus in the USA, the travel ban and the consequences for your ESTA.
State of affairs in the United States
The number of coronavirus infections in the USA has now passed the ten million mark and is still rising. To date (10-11-20), 237,835 people have died from the effects of the coronavirus in the USA. Most of the infections were registered in the states of California, Texas and Florida. Most of the deaths, however, were reported in New York, Texas and California. The United States is the country most affected by the coronavirus, followed by India and Brazil.
President Trump, who downplayed the threat of the virus from the outset, tested positive for coronavirus himself at the beginning of October and had to be hospitalised. However, this has not led to stricter measures in the country: the President continues to hold large-scale gatherings and campaign rallies. However, foreign travellers wishing to visit the USA and who may be carrying the coronavirus are subject to strict travel restrictions.
Vaccine being developed
The US President previously indicated that he would have a vaccine produced in record time and claimed that a vaccine would be on the market as early as October or November - before the presidential elections. However, a large number of pharmaceutical companies have stated that they will only market a coronavirus vaccine that meets all the strict safety requirements, even if the President puts pressure on the pharmaceutical industry with a deadline. On 29 October, Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, announced that there will be no vaccine in the USA before January.
Measures against coronavirus in the United States
In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, various measures have been taken in the USA, some of which only apply in certain states and/or regions. Concerts, festivals and major sporting events have been cancelled. Foreigners in the USA are advised to observe the following guidelines to prevent becoming infected with the coronavirus:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap, for at least 20 seconds each time
- Use disinfectant gel if soap and water are not available
- Avoid touching your face as much as possible
- Keep 2 arm lengths away from people who do not belong to your household
- Wear a mask in public, even if you do not feel sick
- Cough and sneeze in your elbow or in a paper handkerchief
- Regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched (such as door handles, light switches, keyboards and mobile phones)
- Always be alert for symptoms of the virus and get tested if symptoms occur
The ESTA visa is normally valid for a stay of up to 90 consecutive days. However, exceptions are currently made for travellers who are unable to leave the country on time because of Covid-19. Due to illness, global travel restrictions or the limited number of flights from the USA to Europe, it can be difficult to leave the United States within the maximum 90-day stay. US Customs and Border Protection has therefore announced that, due to the coronavirus, travellers may apply to stay in the USA for 30 days longer with their ESTA. An application for an extension of the maximum length of stay of the ESTA due to the coronavirus can be submitted at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Contact Center, at one of the US airports or border posts, or at one of the Deferred Inspection Sites.
Measures for foreign travellers
On 31 January, President Trump imposed a travel ban on all persons who had been in China in the 14 days prior to their arrival in the USA. Since the end of February, the same applies to Iran. On 12 March, a travel ban was imposed on travellers from the Schengen area, also known as the Schengen Proclamation or Schengen Travel Ban. On 16 March, it was announced that the travel ban would also apply to the United Kingdom and Ireland, followed by Brazil. The travel ban was introduced to prevent travellers from European countries from spreading the coronavirus in the USA. Although by now most Schengen countries have managed to control the coronavirus much better than the United States itself, the travel ban is still in place.
Countries that are on the travel ban
The coronavirus travel ban means that travellers who have been in one of the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, Iran or Brazil in the 14 days prior to their arrival in the USA will not be admitted. This therefore concerns the following countries: Austria, Belgium, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Iran, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Travellers are therefore banned not on the basis of their nationality, but on the basis of the countries in which they have been in the last two weeks. The travel ban also applies to persons who have only made a transfer in one of the above countries, even if they did not leave the airport. It is therefore not possible to transfer or make a stopover in the United States if you have been in one of the countries mentioned above or have had a transfer or stopover in one of those countries in the last 14 days, even if you have a valid ESTA or visa. One option to still travel to the USA is to stay for 14 days in a country that is not covered by the travel ban and to travel from there to the USA - without a transfer or stopover in one of the Schengen countries or Great Britain or Ireland.
Persons who can still travel to the USA despite the travel ban
The travel ban does not apply to travellers with American nationality and permanent residents of the United States and their spouses and children. In addition, exceptions are made for parents, guardians and unmarried siblings of persons with American nationality or permanent residents of the USA under the age of 21. These persons may travel to the United States, even if they have been in one of the countries to which the travel ban applies in the 14 days prior to their departure. In spite of the coronavirus, these travellers can travel to the USA with an ESTA and do not need to apply for a special authorisation or permit. Persons flying to New York or Massachusetts are also required to fill in a health form prior to departure.
Persons who are not (directly related to) a US citizen or permanent resident, but who have a pressing reason to travel to the USA during the coronavirus crisis, can check the website of the US embassy in the UK for instructions on how to apply for an exception (a "212(f) waiver").
Consequences for the ESTA visa
The ESTA can still be applied for online despite the travel ban. Applications are processed within 3 days, just like before the coronavirus crisis. However, an issued ESTA does not mean that you can actually travel to the United States. The travel ban also applies to travellers who have a valid ESTA or US visa. Because the ESTA is valid for two years from the moment it is granted, the ESTA can be applied for in advance for future trips to the USA. As soon as the travel ban has been lifted, your ESTA can be used again, as long as you still have the same passport that was used for the application.
Are you planning to travel to the USA once the travel ban has been lifted? Then you can already apply for your ESTA visa.Apply for an ESTA now
An ESTA application that has been processed by the US immigration service can no longer be cancelled. As the ESTA is personal and linked to a specific passport, it is not possible to refund the travel authorisation after it has been granted, even if the planned trip cannot take place because of the coronavirus. The US government does not reimburse costs for granted ESTAs that cannot be used because of the entry ban. For any compensation for damages caused by the coronavirus, contact your travel insurance, the tour operator or agency where you booked your trip.
Disclaimer: The situation regarding the coronavirus in the United States changes rapidly and the US authorities may change the measures and travel restrictions at any time. For this reason, we cannot guarantee that the information on this page is up to date and correct at all times. Keep an eye on this page and the website of your travel operator and airline to keep up to date with current developments.