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What Americans should know about Europe’s travel restrictions

The USA remains off the EU’s list of approved countries for non-essential travel
The USA remains off the EU’s list of approved countries for non-essential travel   -   Copyright  Getty Images
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After months of lockdown, on July 1 the EU reopened its borders to non-essential travellers from 14 countries. The United States, however, was not on that list, leaving many American passport holders with their European summer plans thwarted.

For US citizens wanting to continue with their international travels, here is everything you need to know about travelling to the EU, and beyond, during COVID-19.

Who can visit Europe right now?

Only the 14 countries on the EU’s approved non-essential travel list can currently travel within its 27 member states, as well as to the Schengen-associated nations of Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. This includes Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. Residents from Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican are also allowed to enter Europe, as they have been considered EU residents for the purpose of COVID travel. American citizens, however, can’t currently travel to Europe unless they qualify for an exemption (see below).

Why aren’t Americans allowed into the EU?

The countries allowed into the EU for non-essential travel have to meet a set of criteria outlined by the European Council. One important condition is that countries allowed into Europe must be close to or below the EU average for COVID cases per 100 000 inhabitants. The country must also have a stable or decreasing trend of cases, which is reviewed every two weeks. As it stands, the United State’s continued high rate of infection means it does not meet the European Council’s criteria. For more on how the EU decides which countries are allowed in, see the Council’s official recommendation.

Are there any exceptions to the EU travel bans?

The restrictions do not apply to any long-term EU residents and their family members. Travellers with “an essential function or need” are also exempt. This includes health and humanitarian workers, diplomats, students, and seasonal farm workers, among others. For a full list of exemptions, see the EU’s Council Recommendation.

Will the decision to ban US citizens from entering Europe be reviewed?

The list of countries allowed into the EU is reviewed every two weeks. If the situation in the United States improves, it may be added to the list and US citizens allowed to enter. Equally, a country on the EU’s approved list can be removed if the situation worsens within that country. Any changes are regularly updated on the European Union’s website.

So Europe is off the list, but where can Americans travel to right now?

While US citizens may not be allowed to travel to Europe right now, they are able to visit multiple countries in the Caribbean, several states in Mexico, and a handful of other countries around the world, including Kenya, Albania and Turkey. However, many of the countries allowing US citizens to visit are imposing strict safety protocols, such as quarantine and testing requirements, mandatory insurance premiums, and reduced travel services.

In addition, the US government announced that passengers returning from certain restricted countries (including many European Schengen countries, China, and Iran) can only land at the 15 airports able to perform enhanced screening on this list. For country-specific information for US travellers, visit the State Department website.

I’m an American citizen but I’m a resident in an EU country. Can I still travel around Europe?

If you can prove your EU residency, or if you are a resident in one of the other EU-approved countries, then you may still be able to travel around Europe with a US passport. However, it’s best to check with the US embassy or the border control authorities in the country you wish to travel to before you set off.

I’m an American citizen and I booked a trip to Europe before COVID-19. Will I get my money back?

While many insurance companies aren’t covering disruptions or cancellations related to COVID-19, most airlines, tour operators, and hotels are offering either a full refund or credit to re-book your trip at a later date. If you can, re-booking your trip rather than cancelling can help travel companies stay afloat at this extremely difficult time.

Resources for American travellers

Coronavirus.gov

US State Department

European Council