The USA has published full details today of what vaccinations and tests you will require to enter the United States from 8th November 2021.
Details have been scant since the United States announced it would welcome back travellers to the USA from 33 countries, including the UK and Europe. It has cut it a bit fine, with just two weeks until reopening on Monday 8th November.
The US has had tough covid restrictions for the past twenty months for travellers arriving by air. The rules prevented almost all non-US citizens who had been in the UK, Ireland, Europe, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil from entering. The rule change will re-open the borders more widely than they have been since March 2020.
Who is allowed in to the US?
From 8th November, you will be able to visit the USA without applying for a National Interest Exemption. That means you will once again be able to visit the USA as a tourist, to visit friends and family or for any other reason.
The new rules will come into effect for all travellers, regardless of origin, from 00:01 EST on Monday 8th November.
Technically, it only applies to flights which depart after 00:01 EST on the 8th – you can’t take a flight which lands just after midnight.
The first UK flight will be the special BA1 service, departing Heathrow at 8:30am (4.30am EST) and arriving in New York at 11:15am. You can read more about the history of the BA1 designation here – British Airways is using the historic flight number as a one-off to celebrate the re-opening of transatlantic travel.
What are the USA vaccination requirements?
The new entry rules will be based on your vaccination status rather than your country of origin. Only fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to enter: adults will not be allowed in if unvaccinated or semi-vaccinated.
All vaccines approved or authorised by the FDA or listed by the WHO for Emergency Use are accepted. This includes the three vaccines used in the UK:
- Oxford AstraZeneca (both the Vaxzevria and Covishield brand names)
- Johnson & Johnson
The final vaccination dose must occur at least two weeks prior to departure. Mixed dose vaccines will also be accepted.
Unvaccinated travellers will barred from entry, pending specific exemptions.
Can unvaccinated children fly to the USA?
Children under the age of 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement.
Any other exemptions?
Further exemptions apply in limited circumstances for people with medical contraindications to the vaccines, including “severe anaphylactic allergic reactions to a prior Covid vaccine”.
There are exceptions for those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons and for business travellers (not tourists) from countries with a vaccination rate of 10% or less. Further documentation is required in these cases.
Will I need to take a covid test to enter the USA?
Yes. A further requirement (in addition to being fully vaccinated) is that all travellers aged two and over will have to provide proof of a negative covid test taken within three calendar days of departure.
Note that this is not 72 hours but three days. As per the CDC guidelines: “For example, if a passenger’s flight is at 1pm on a Friday, the passenger could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Tuesday or after.”
This can be a PCR test, nucleic amplification test (NAAT) or an antigen (lateral flow) test. The following information must be included on the test result certificate:
- Type of test (PCR, antigen, etc)
- Test issuer
- Test swab date (this must be within three calendar days of departure)
- Your full name plus at least one other identifier such as your date of birth or passport number
- The test result (positive or negative)
Self-tests are allowed, provided they are taken under real-time supervision via a video call.
For US citizens and permanent residents, anyone who cannot demonstrate proof of full vaccination will need to take a test within one day of departure.
Children will be treated in the same manner as the adults they are travelling with, ie. can take a test within three days of departure if they are travelling with fully vaccinated adults or one day if travelling alone or with unvaccinated adults.
Details can be found on this page of the CDC website.
Don’t forget your ESTA!
If you want to travel to the United States don’t forget you are likely to need apply for an ESTA, the USA’s visa waiver program. An ESTA is valid for 2 years, so yours will probably have expired since you used it last.
You will also need a new ESTA if you have got a new passport since you last visited the US, even if your old ESTA is still valid.
The scheme applies to citizens of 40 countries including the United Kingdom who plan to remain for fewer than 90 days. There is a $14 application fee and the maximum turnaround time is three days, according to the official website.