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Here are the vaccination and testing rules for USA travel from 8th November

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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.

What are the vaccination and testing rules for USA travel from 8th November?

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)
  • Pfizer-BioNtech
  • Moderna
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

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.

You can apply for an ESTA on the official US Government website here.

Comments (158)

  • Grimz says:

    What price is a 3day supervised LFT test for pre departure?

  • Jeff Greene says:

    Hopefully a certain person who asks about this eight times a day will stop now 😂

  • A says:

    Don’t forget that express test do the rapid antigen tests on site at the LHR terminals….results in 35-40 mins by email, show email to check in, job done.
    £32 with code.
    Was so easy a few weeks ago to JFK and no further checking on departure, or on arrival.

    • Grimz says:

      Do you book this or just turn up?

      • A says:

        Pre book only – they were very strict on that.
        Last month it was wide open for slots – I booked my flight & test on under 24 hrs notice and had my pick of slots….although I imagine that availability will shrink sooner as more flights appear.
        Still, I was impressed and it took away the hassle of going somewhere and taking the PCR, or sending it off and praying that the results arrived in time.

        • Grimz says:

          I have express test in my shopping centre in Aberdeen, where do you get the codes for discount?

          • Andrew says:

            BA21

          • Rob says:

            ExpressTest discounts don’t discount much. Try MHEXPRESSTEST – all the codes give the same discount (says a man who spend £300 with them last week).

    • Bobby says:

      Isn’t this likely to get rather busy when the US opens up?

  • Andrew says:

    BA1…

    Surely Branson’s planning a 9pm-ish take off and a 00:01 East Coast landing?

    • Rob says:

      There is something ‘up’ which we can’t tell you about but is quite cool. It involves co-operation, not competition. Let’s just say I’m going to be on my own in the HfP office for a few days.

      • Paul says:

        Are the BA/VS simultaneous flights still happening or have they changed for something different?

  • Tim says:

    We were originally booked on Heathrow to Miami on 7/11, which unfortunately were British Airways holidays flights, so I had to call to change them, by which time all the direct flights and connections had gone, so we’re having to travel via Dallas on 9/11. We got new ESTAS last week and already have Randox PCR tests so should be good to go.

  • Tonyt says:

    So the US have agreed with prof Van Tam et al that novavax trial volunteer be deemed fully vaccinated but here we are omitted! What a farce! Anyhow I’ve thrown in the towel and taken up the Pfizer jab offer, I get my second in November – what’s the point in being part of global vaccine pandemic research! Go figure!

    • zanderblue says:

      Yup, totally agree with your sentiments. I too am a Novavax guinea pig and am sick and tired of all the promises, but no action.

    • Rosalie says:

      I’m a Novavax participant and have just read the extensive CDC document which lists the vaccines allowed under the exceptions rule and Novavax is listed for non US residents IE us 😁 Just wish I hadn’t cancelled my hotels so now have to start again as my flights are on the 10th.

    • Richard Addy says:

      I’m in same situation – question will be what proof of vaccination is required – app or will card be sufficient?? If we are relying on NHS app being updated to show Pfizer rather than Novavax, that worries me – I fly in 27/12

      • Rosalie says:

        As I flew to Spain n September and now Greece this weekend I asked NHS for a hard copy letter which shows dates and vaccine as Novavax given March and April this year. My App now shows my first Pfizer alongside 1 Novavax so will be relying on paper for my proof until I’ve had my 2nd Pfizer and my App updates to reflect. Tbh paper is much quicker at check in and border control.

  • Freddy says:

    Don’t think I’ll be going with 3 kids in tow.

    Would feel bad on the person supervising me trying to pin the kids down for a swab…

  • LewisB says:

    If anyone lives near a DAM Health store you can get an in-store antigen for £29. Results in 2 hours. Booked mine for 8am the day before I fly to ORD on the 12th Nov.

    • Andrew says:

      Why not do it the max 3 days before?

      • David says:

        In case your flight is delayed or cancelled at short notice; to avoid the need for a further test.

    • Liam says:

      This is what I did yesterday (albeit a same-day booking for £39) at the one in King’s Cross before my flight back to LAX today. You have to set yourself up on an app beforehand which only takes five minutes but is more of a hassle than just submitting your details in a form when you book the test. Results come in the app, not via email, but you can download it as a PDF and email/transfer it to a device for printing. Booked for 1.40, turned up at 1.35 to find a fairly long line in the rain outside—that was my main complaint but it may be different at other locations if they’re bigger.

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