USA Travel and Corona

Entry ban, curfew, quarantine - the Coronavirus still keeps the world busy. Find out how you can still fly to the USA despite the entry ban and what effects the Corona crisis has on your ESTA!

Note

You can still submit an ESTA application to us despite the current Corona crisis!

ESTA

The official travel authorization for your trip to the USA!

Update: Travel Ban extended!

Joe Biden has extended the Corona-related travel ban for many countries. It applies to all countries in the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, China (incl. Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, and India.

 

Will the 14-day rule remain in place?

The rule that anyone who has been in a country affected by the travel ban within the 14 days prior to their planned entry into the US may not enter the country will remain. If you are from one of the banned areas but have stayed elsewhere for 14 days, you will not be affected by the travel ban.

Does a transit count as a stay and lead to being denied entry to the USA?

Transits are also considered a stay in this context. You may only enter the US if you have stayed exclusively in areas not affected by the travel ban during the last 14 days.

Are there still exceptions for Green Card holders and family members?

Exceptions to the travel ban are still made for US citizens, Green Card holders, family members, and persons whose entry is of "national interest" to the US. 

Note that as of January 26th, 2021, you must also present a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery to travel to the US.

US Entry with NIE (National Interest Exception)

Certain categories of people can travel to the US despite the entry ban if they apply for an NIE (National Interest Exception).

What is an NIE (National Interest Exception)?

A National Interest Exception is issued by the U.S. Department of State when the United States has an explicit interest in the entry of a person who would otherwise not be allowed to enter because of applicable entry prohibitions.

Who can apply for an NIE?

Previously, it was primarily people in the health care sector and employees in critical infrastructures such as emergency services and energy production who could obtain a National Interest Exception. The list of people has now been expanded to include other groups.

The following individuals are currently eligible to apply for an NIE:

  • Leaders who provide significant support to critical infrastructure in the US
  • Individuals with significant economic activity in the United States
  • Individuals with significant roles in infrastructure-critical supply chains in the USA
  • Journalists (I visas)
  • Certain holders of J visas (exchange programs and internships in the US)
  • Immigrants who need to enter the US for humanitarian or medical emergencies
  • Public health workers contributing to COVID-19 pandemic containment or similarly important emergency response
  • Inbound travelers who are contributing to national security
  • Harvesters
  • Military personnel and other key US government contacts
  • C-1 or D visa holders (pilots and aircrew)
  • Green Card applicants
  • K-1 visa holders (fiancé visas)
  • Family members of NIE beneficiaries, if the trip to the USA lasts four weeks or longer

Special case

Students on F and M visas may travel to the USA without applying for an NIE. The same still applies to Green Card holders and their family members.

How to apply for a NIE?

A National Interest Exception (NIE) for the USA is requested by email to the responsible US consulate and is valid for 12 months from approval. 

New: The 12-month validity of a NIE, which was introduced on July 5th, 2021, also applies to all NIEs issued within the last 12 months retroactively. NIEs are now also valid for multiple entries within the validity period.

Suppose you wish to apply for a NIE. In that case, you will need a letter of justification, evidence of substantial interest in your entry to the United States, a copy of your passport, the dates of your travel, and a copy of your ESTA approval or visa.

Depending on which Embassy or Consulate you submit your application for a National Interest Exception, additional supporting documents may be required.

How long is the travel ban in effect?

Travel bans to the US have been imposed until further notice and will be reviewed by the US government every 30 days.

Update: As of Jan 26th, 2021 a COVID-19 test is required for US entry.

From Jan 26th, unless you are affected by the entry ban, you will be required to present either a negative COVID-19 test or a certification stating that you have already recovered from a COVID-19 illness before entering the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published precise guidelines.

Who is affected by the new COVID-19 rule for US travel?

The new Corona test rule affects all US travelers, whether US citizens, Green Card holders, visa holders, or ESTA travelers. Children under two years of age, crew members, and certain government and military personnel are exempt.

How old may a Corona test be for a trip to the USA?

A submitted COVID-19 test must not be older than 72 hours. The time of departure is decisive here. Different rules may apply for connecting flights and connections over 24 hours, which can be found on the CDC website.

Will I be denied entry if I do not present a negative Corona test?

Instead of a negative COVID-19 test, you can also present proof that you have recovered from COVID-19. If neither is provided, airlines are encouraged to deny you boarding.

In what form must a negative COVID-19 test be presented?

Evidence of a negative COVID-19 test must meet the following requirements:

  • All documents must contain personal identifiers such as name and date of birth that match the personal information in your passport.
  • The date of your Corona test must be within the last three calendar days prior to departure.
  • Your negative test must be a viral detection test for current infection (i.e., a nucleic acid amplification test or a viral antigen test) approved or authorized by the relevant national authority for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 (rapid tests won’t be accepted).
  • The test result states “NEGATIVE,” “SARS-CoV-2 RNA NOT DETECTED,” “SARS-CoV-2 ANTIGEN NOT DETECTED,” or “COVID-19 NOT DETECTED.” A test marked “invalid” won’t be accepted.
  • Details of the tester (physician, test center/laboratory) must be evident.  
  • Documents can be submitted in both written and digital form.  We recommend carrying a printed copy of all documents in your hand luggage to be on the safe side. 

What happens if my flight is delayed and I, therefore, exceed the 72-hour rule for the test?

If your flight is delayed so much that your test will be beyond the required 3-day period before departure, you will need to be retested.

In what format must I provide proof of recovery?

Documents proving that you have already recovered from COVID-19 must meet the following requirements:

  • All documents must contain personal identifiers such as name and date of birth that match the information in your passport.
  • The confirmation of your recovery must be an official letter with letterhead, contact information, and signature from your doctor or health care provider, who will allow you to travel as planned.
  • The documents must also include proof of the positive test. In this case, the COVID-19 test must not be older than 90 days.
  • Your positive COVID-19 test must be a viral detection test for current infection (i.e., a nucleic acid amplification test or a viral antigen test) approved or authorized by the relevant national authority for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. The test result must state  “NEGATIVE,” “SARS-CoV-2 RNA NOT DETECTED,” “SARS-CoV-2 ANTIGEN NOT DETECTED,” or “COVID-19 NOT DETECTED.” A test marked “invalid” won’t be accepted. Details of the tester (physician, test center/laboratory) must also be evident. 
  • The documents can be submitted in both written and digital form. We recommend that you carry a printed copy of all documents in your hand luggage as a precaution. 

In which language do I have to present the supporting documents?

So far, no official language regulations have been communicated. Since the airlines are responsible for collecting passenger data, test results, and supporting documents, it is currently assumed that you can submit all documents in your local language.

Can I submit documents for a family or travel group collectively?

For each traveler two years of age or older, a separate statement must be submitted. For those under the age of 18, documents may be submitted by immediate family members or through a legal guardian. 

Nevertheless, the above requirements for documents regarding the form, dates, and age of a COVID-19 test also apply.

How do I submit my documents before the flight?

Your airline will ask you to complete a passenger certificate and take a test or submit all required documentation a few days before your flight. 

Since processes vary from airline to airline, please follow the instructions on your airline's website or contact them directly.

I am vaccinated - can I travel to the USA?

The Corona Travel Ban remains in effect even for vaccinated individuals until further notice. Immunization will not save you from having to apply for a National Interest Exception and present a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of recovery before boarding your flight to the United States.

At this time, there is no telling when the US government will make it easier for vaccinated travelers to enter the country. We will keep you updated in this article.

Do I have to follow these rules even if I am already vaccinated?

Immunization currently does not save you from having to present a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of recovery before boarding your flight to the United States.

Has the Corona Travel Ban been lifted as a result of the new rule?

The travel ban for countries classified as high-risk areas has been extended until further notice, regardless of the new COVID-19 testing regulations.

Who is affected by the travel ban to the USA?

A new ban of entry into the US is in effect for travelers who have been in any of the following countries in the 14 days before their scheduled flight:

  • 26 countries of the Schengen area
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
  • Ireland
  • China (including Hong Kong and Macao)
  • Iran
  • Brasil
  • South Africa
  • India

The entry ban applies to all non-Americans who wish to travel to the USA with a visa or visa-free with ESTA or who wish to transit through the USA to another country. However, Green Card holders are still allowed to enter the country!

Note 

The Corona travel ban has been extended by US President Joe Biden until further notice and will now be reviewed every 30 days.

Countries of the Schengen area

Below you will find a list of all countries of the Schengen area which are affected by the entry ban to the USA in connection with the Corona crisis:

SCHENGEN AREA COUNTRIES

Germany  Hungary Norway
Austria Iceland Poland
Czech Republic Italy Portugal
Denmark Latvia Slovakia
Estonia Liechtenstein Slovenia
Finland Lithuania Spain
France Luxembourg Sweden
Belgium Malta Switzerland
Greece The Netherlands

 

Who is still allowed to travel to the USA?

The following groups of people are exempt from the Travel Ban and may continue to enter the USA:

  • US citizens
  • Green Card holders
  • Close family members of US citizens or Green Card holders such as spouses or children
  • Crew members (from aircrafts or ships)
  • Diplomats and government members
  • Individuals with a National Interest Exception (NIE)

USA journeys and Corona


However, if they have stayed in one of the countries affected by the travel ban 14 days prior to entering the USA, they must enter via one of 15 listed US airports. Upon arrival, they will be examined and, if corona is suspected, sent to a 14-day quarantine.

Can I apply for an ESTA now?

Yes, despite the entry ban, you can still submit an ESTA application for your future travel to the USA! Since the ESTA permit is generally valid for 2 years (or until the expiry date of your passport), you can also submit your ESTA application during the corona crisis without any problems.

Although many US authorities are currently closed and some processes take considerably longer, ESTA applications are still processed immediately, so that you will receive your entry permit after 72 hours at the latest!

Why should I apply for an ESTA right now?

Applying for the ESTA now, even if no USA trip is imminent, can be quite an advantage. As soon as the US entry ban is lifted, an onrush of ESTA applications can be expected, which may lead to delays in the entry permits.

Even if you are planning a US vacation for 2021, you could rest assured if you already hold your entry permit in your hands now! It also helps you avoid possible fee increases next year, or you could book a spontaneous flight at a discount price as soon as unrestricted travel is possible again!

How can I fly to the USA despite the entry ban?

The US entry ban for the above mentioned countries is not directly linked to the nationality of the traveller, but only to their stay in these countries. This means that tourists from Germany, for example, could visit a country that is not subject to the entry ban 2 weeks before their intended US entry and fly to the USA from there.

Note

When booking a flight, please make sure that it is either a direct flight to the USA or that the country of the stopover is not affected by the entry ban! It would not be possible to stay in Croatia for 14 days and depart from there if you have to transfer at the Paris airport.

At present, for instance, there is a direct connection from Belgrade/Serbia to New York City (as of July 16, 2020). Some travellers have also chosen the route via Mexico and spent a two-week beach holiday in Cancun before flying on to the USA.

Is my ESTA now invalid?

Even already approved ESTA for citizens from countries affected by the entry ban will not be denied retrospectively!

If, as described above, you wish to enter the USA via a detour, you should consult your airline beforehand. The airline should correctly inform the US authorities that you have already been in the selected country of departure 14 days before your flight to the USA. Otherwise, the US authorities would declare your existing ESTA invalid if they suspect a violation of the entry ban.

Please also keep in mind that the final decision on entry into the USA is always made by the responsible US border official on site - regardless of the current situation.

Staying in the USA with ESTA during the Corona crisis

Since March 18, 2020, ESTA travelers can apply for a status extension at the USCIS based on a special arrangement, if all of the following points apply:

  • you are currently in the USA with an ESTA
  • you cannot leave the USA for an important reason (for example, flight was cancelled)
  • your ESTA is only valid for 14 more days

If all of this applies to you, the ESTA status can then be extended for a maximum of 30 days (except in cases of serious illness).

Anyone staying in the USA longer than officially permitted will be excluded from visa-free entry with ESTA forever!

If you are currently in the USA with an ESTA and cannot leave the country for an important reason, please contact the USCIS by phone for further instructions: 800-375-5283. All USCIS offices are currently closed to the general public!

IMPORTANT: You must be able to provide written proof of the cancellation of your flight or possible health reasons!

Restrictions due to Corona in the USA

In mid-March, former President Trump declared a national emergency, and several states imposed lockdowns. Public life came to a complete standstill due to the closure of restaurants, casinos, theaters, etc. Public schools were also closed nationwide, and almost all universities and colleges switched to online courses.

In recent months, however, most corona restrictions have been relaxed again in all states. Individual states such as Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona, where the coronavirus subsequently spread rapidly again, reversed many of the relaxations. In contrast, the situation has improved in the former hotspot New York and the capital Washington D.C..

The USA remains the country most affected by the Coronavirus worldwide.

Note

Since the current situation in the USA is very dynamic, it is not possible to make any general statements on individual states and their restrictions!

Furthermore, you should check whether the Foreign Office in your home country has issued any travel warning for the USA, as it could affect your possible travel insurance cover.

When can I safely travel to the USA again?

Due to the dynamic situation and the recent increase in the number of cases in the USA, no reliable predictions can be made at present. However, just like in many other countries, the rate of new infections is evaluated at regular intervals, so in case of a positive development the US entry ban may be lifted spontaneously.

We keep you up to date on this site and will inform you immediately about any changes regarding the travel restrictions!

Apply for ESTA now