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Europe’s Travel Restrictions for U.S. Citizens

us citizens travel restrictions

American tourists are wondering when they will be able to visit Europe since a U.S. travel ban was put in place by the European Union to reduce the risk of COVID spikes.

Find out more about EU travel restrictions as well as any exceptions in place. Learn everything you need to know about the EU banning Americans from visiting during the pandemic.

European Coronavirus Travel Restrictions for U.S. Visitors

The European Union’s recent ban for American tourists due to the coronavirus situation in the U.S. has left people with many questions:

  • How long will the EU ban for U.S. visitors last?
  • Are there any exceptions for U.S. nationals that need to visit Europe?
  • Can I get a refund for my canceled trip from the U.S. to the EU?

Americans are choosing to cancel their trips to Europe, given how the U.S. situation is evolving and the uncertainty that surrounds the travel ban being lifted.

According to leading epidemiologists, travel restrictions being loosened depend largely on how successful the U.S. is in controlling the spread of COVID-19. As of writing this quick-guide, there is no deadline for the ban being lifted. Nevertheless, some health experts are already advising to avoid traveling to Europe before 2022.

Why are Americans Banned from Visiting Europe?

The reason the travel ban was set in place by European authorities was to prevent further spread of coronavirus throughout the Schengen Countries.

Travel restrictions were gradually lifted by Europe on July 1st to allow arrivals from designated countries including Canada, New Zealand, and Japan.

Restrictions have not yet been lifted for U.S. arrivals since the United States is currently the country with the highest number of coronavirus cases.

Travelers from the 14 approved countries —excluding the U.S.— may enter the EU borders and move freely within its 27 member nations, as well as to the Schengen-associated countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.)

On March 17th, the U.S. closed its external borders restricting all nonessential travel in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19.

When Will Europe Lift Its Travel Ban on U.S. Tourists?

About 15 million U.S. tourists chose Europe as a vacation destination in 2018. Based on these numbers, it is clear to see how travel restrictions in place to protect European lives are also significantly affecting the tourism industry in the area.

For Europe to lift travel bans for a country’s travelers, the nation’s epidemiological situation must have stats close to or below the average of EU coronavirus cases as of 2 weeks prior.

Furthermore, for countries to be on the approved EU entry list, they need to have credible data, including:

  • A stable or decreasing trend of new cases
  • Satisfactory COVID response: testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment, and reporting

The 2020 travel restrictions are considered temporary measures, the EU normally welcomes American tourists. Travel restrictions should be lifted by the EU once the U.S. has the outbreak under control or is able to negotiate an exception to the European Union ban — whichever comes first.

Where in Europe Can U.S. Tourists Travel?

There is a small number of exceptions that allow U.S. travelers to enter Europe.

One of the European countries currently allowing U.S. visitors is the United Kingdom, and another is Serbia —neither of which are members of the European Union.

Tourists wondering whether they can still travel from the United States to the United Kingdom during the pandemic may be reassured that this is possible.

Nevertheless, the conditions to travel from the U.S. to the UK include 14 days of self-isolation upon arrival.

Furthermore, American visitors to the UK will be contacted regularly by British authorities to ensure compliance with self-isolation regulations and may face fines upwards of $1000 USD, should they breach entry conditions.

For those who choose to, traveling during the pandemic will undoubtedly be a different experience.

Practices meant to slow COVID transmission are in place in countries allowing international visitors. These may include:

  • No buffets in hotels
  • Sanitized hotel rooms
  • PCR tests upon arrival or during their stay
  • Ramped-up disinfection
  • Contactless hotel check-in

Exceptions to the EU travel restrictions

Other exceptions to the EU travel ban include U.S. citizens with permanent resident status or long-term visa holders.

Furthermore, there are a number of traveler categories that are also exempt from European travel restrictions, including:

  • Health care professionals
  • Seasonal workers in agriculture
  • Diplomats
  • Passengers traveling for family reasons
  • Transit passengers making a stopover in the EU en route to a third-country destination

Cancellations and Refunds Due to Coronavirus Travel Bans

U.S. citizens with pre-booked travel arrangements to Europe wonder whether they will get a refund for their plane tickets due to the travel restrictions currently in place.

Travel experts advise waiting until the airline cancels flights, which would entitle them to a full refund under the US Department of Transportation regulations.

Tourists making cancellations before the airline does may be entitled to a ticket credit instead, thus complicating obtaining a refund.

The same applies to tours since odds of getting a full refund are greater when travelers wait for the tour operator to notify them the service will not be taking place.

ETIAS And Public Health in the EU

Beyond the current outbreak, the European Union is taking other measures to ensure the public health of its visitors, residents, and nationals.

One of these initiatives is known as ETIAS U.S. or European Travel Information and Authorization System. U.S. citizens are amongst those eligible to obtain an ETIAS, starting 2022. Visiting Europe with ETIAS means entering the free-movement area without the need for a visa.

The application will take place online, where travelers will be required to fill out their information, including some health details. The health questions on the visa waiver application form are one way in which ETIAS will protect Americans’ public health.