When can Americans start traveling to Europe?

when can Americans travel to Europe
Photo via Jason Ippolito/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

On July 1, European nations opened their borders to a limited list of countries, and the United States was not on the list because it has failed to get the coronavirus outbreak under control. Now, with no signs of the pandemic slowing down and the U.S. adding tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases per week, when can Americans start traveling to Europe again? 

While it’s true that some countries have begun lifting restrictions to welcome tourists and the much needed economic boost their visits will provide, the U.S. is nowhere near ready to participate in open international travel.

For a country to be eligible for inclusion in the list of nations allowed restriction-free entry to the E.U., it must first meet certain criteria, mostly having to do with that nation’s number of new cases, according to the European Union council’s June 30 press release.

The number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period must be near or below the E.U. average as it stood on June 15, 2020. There should also be a steady or declining trend of new cases over a certain period when tallied against numbers from the previous 14 days.

With the U.S.’s consistent upward trajectory in its daily number of new cases, it seems unlikely for the country to meet these particular qualifications anytime soon.

“We’re working with our European counterparts to get that right,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a German Marshall Fund conference in May, according to the Times. “There’s enormous destruction of wealth.”

According to the Washington Post, the European average over a two-week period (as of July 8) is about 15 cases per 100,000 people, while the U.S. average is around 145 cases per 100,000 people. And while the European CDC‘s latest weekly surveillance report produced on July 10 indicates the rate to be a bit lower at 12 per 100,000 population in the E.U., computing the U.S.’s average number of new cases for the same 14-day period reveals a rapid increase to about 210 cases per 100,000 people.

Even though this pretty much guarantees Americans won’t be let into most European countries any time soon, there are a few exceptions. Students and highly qualified workers—such as healthcare professionals, frontline workers, diplomats, and transport personnel, to name some—are allowed to enter the E.U. from banned countries.

Exemptions are also applied to E.U. citizens and family members as well as E.U. permanent residents and their family members. Every member state of the E.U. is allowed to interpret the exceptions as they see fit, so expect each country to have a different set of parameters that they follow for entry.

It is important to note that the ban is according to residency, not citizenship. So if you are an American citizen and can prove residency in the E.U. or any of the allowed countries on the list, you will be allowed entry. However, if you are a citizen of any of the approved countries and you live in the U.S., you may not be granted entry. Either way, it’s best to check with the border control authority of the European country you are hoping to visit to determine if you fit the criteria for exemption or not.

Technically, Americans are currently still allowed to fly into Ireland and Britain, as both are outside Europe’s Schengen Area, the New York Times noted. Many Irish citizens aren’t happy with that arrangement, but both countries require all visitors to go through a mandatory two-week self-isolation upon arrival. Additionally, authorities in Britain may contact you to ensure you’re following the rules, or you might face a fine of about $1,250, according to the Washington Post. You also probably won’t be allowed to travel onward to other European countries even after you complete the quarantine protocol, unless you can establish residency or familial relations in the area.

Even though these “technicalities” might give you the ray of hope you need to salvage your European vacation goals this summer, the U.S. State Department continues to implore U.S. citizens to stay put, stay safe, and avoid all international travel until the country’s COVID-19 numbers improve. That will likely not happen in 2020.

Sources: New York Times, European Council, Washington Post, ECDC, 1Point3Acres

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