ESTA for US travel: the latest COVID-19 news and travel updates

Entry restrictions proclamation and the effect on ESTA Visa Waiver Programme travellers

The United States government has temporarily limited entry into the country in an effort to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus. The imposed travel restrictions which began in mid-March affect travellers from myriad countries, including the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Countless travellers from Schengen area member states and across the world have been affected by this ban. ESTA Visa Waiver Programme travellers planning holiday and business travel to the US have also been impacted by the ban and many have yet to fully understand the implications of the proclamation. One of the biggest queries remains, “When can I travel to the US from Europe?”

The Proclamation restricting entry into the US

On 11 March, US President, Donald J. Trump, declared restrictions on travel into the US for those travelling from Schengen Area countries in a broadcast message directly from the Oval Office. The United States government had initially announced a temporary ban on travel from China in January 2020. On 13 March, the government amended the decree a second time to include the UK and Ireland in the temporary travel ban, beginning from the 16th of March. These are active restrictions to entry which shall be revisited regularly.

Impact of the ban on ESTA travel to the US

All foreigners attempting to enter the US fall under the jurisdiction of the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. This includes those travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) from the UK and Ireland. As of 30 June, the restrictions on entry are still in effect for any travellers who have been physically present in any restricted countries within two weeks before travel until further notice. Exemptions listed in the Proclamation include for family members of US citizens, military, and family among some others who are exempt.

Important ESTA application information: Eligible travellers may apply for ESTA anytime

You may apply for The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) today. Though you may not yet travel to the US, your ESTA approval will be valid for two years or until your passport expires, whichever occurs first. If you have holiday travel to the United States planned for later in 2020 or early 2021 and you wish to have your ESTA authorized, you can apply here now.

ESTA VWP: frequently asked questions

ESTA Travel to USA

What is the ESTA?

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. It is part of the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) of the US government that allows citizens of the UK, European Union and two dozen other countries entry to the United States without a need for a traditional visa. Your ESTA authorisation stays active for two years within which you are permitted stays in the US with a 90-day limit per visit.

When did the travel ban restricting entry to the US from the UK and the EU/Schengen region begin?

The travel ban on Schengen Area countries was declared on 11 March during by a Proclamation announced by President Trump. It became effective on the 13 March. It was amended to include the UK and Ireland from the effective 16 March. Presently, the restrictions on entry due to the Proclamation remain active.

When can I travel to the United States with the VWP?

Travel analysts speculate that the ban may remain through autumn and beyond. No date has been set for lifting the travel ban. Check back for updated information and related new articles.

Can I apply for the VWP for future travel?

Yes, absolutely. As soon as your approved application is confirmed, your ESTA authorisation permits you visa-free travel to the US. An approved ESTA is valid two years or until the expiration of one’s passport. However, any travel to the US should not be booked until the ban is lifted.

I am in the US under the VWP, and my ESTA is expiring during the travel restrictions. How do I manage this?

If you are unable to leave the country before your ESTA becomes invalid you can contact US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) > and apply for Satisfactory Departure, which permits US agencies to grant a grace of 30 days for departure without any penalties. Contact US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to learn more.

What if I already booked a flight to the US for my ESTA travel?

Any traveller who attempts to enter the US during the travel ban period specified by the United States Proclamation(s) restricting travel risks having their ESTA cancelled. As such, we suggest you cancel any reservations for air travel in 2020 and rebook after the travel ban is lifted. No refunds shall be granted for any ESTA cancelled for violation of the restrictions.

Do I get a refund if I cancel my ESTA?

While the temporary travel ban on the UK and the EU is active, cancelation of an ESTA application is non-refundable if the termination is as a result of the Proclamation. We advise that travellers subject to the Proclamation postpone their travel plans to the US until the ban is lifted.

I have a residence in the US. Can I travel there?

Any traveller who has been physically present in or have travelled through a Schengen Area country within 14 days of requested entry into the US, would be denied entry into the United States. You may contact a local US Embassy or Consulate to make inquiries if you feel you may be exempted from the Proclamation.

Are there exceptions to the travel ban? What about for emergency travel?

Yes, there are. Exceptions to the limitations to access specified in the US government proclamation include legitimate permanent residents or foreigners married to US citizens, as well as US Armed Forces personnel and their direct family members. Emergency travel authorisation may also be granted for some travellers. If you believe you may be exempt from the travel restrictions, contact us via Live Chat to enquire.

Air, rail and bus travel changes due to the coronavirus

The travel industry collectively has been focusing on ways to keep travellers safe and limit possible exposure of the virus. Changes underway will result in a new normal for travel, both domestic and international. Listed are a few of the changes anticipated.

Air Travel -

The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has developed plans to take travellers’ temperatures at checkpoints at many airports in the US, Europe and beyond. Presently, American Airlines, Delta, United, Lufthansa, and most other air carriers have made it mandatory that all passengers and crew wear masks or face coverings while onboard their aircraft as well as in terminal buildings.

US Rail Travel -

Amtrak, the nation’s major rail travel corporation has declared a mandate that all travellers wear face coverings or masks inside stations and onboard the trains. Passengers that violate this mandate will be denied service.

US Bus Travel -

One of America’s leading bus carriers, Greyhound Bus, has announced that it would require the use of face coverings and masks of its passengers. Many also expect that seating configurations will be modified to allow for better social distancing.

Cruise Travel -

Many changes are coming to the cruise industry. As cruise ships prepare for the anticipated 15 September date for sailing, they are provisioning ships for a bevy of protocols aimed at protecting passengers and crew. Our blog, especially for VWP travellers, has update information in recent posts.

News updates that matter to you

The news constantly changes about travel to and within the US due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated temporary travel limits placed on travellers from Europe, including the UK and Ireland. Get the latest travel updates here on our website, Be sure to bookmark this page to stay up to date with related news about the status of the Proclamation and significant updates for VWP and ESTA travel to the US in latter 2020, early 2021, and beyond.

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