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Europe Extends Its Travel Ban—and Americans Are Still Not Allowed In

By Michelle Baran

Aug 15, 2020

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Denmark remains off limits to most U.S. travelers for the time being.

Photo by Shutterstock

Denmark remains off limits to most U.S. travelers for the time being.

An updated list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to travel to Europe has been agreed upon by the European Union, and it does not include the United States.

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The European Union has agreed on an updated list of countries whose travelers will be welcomed back to the bloc effective August 8, and it does not include the United States.

Europe will continue to bar travelers from the U.S. because the country has not brought the coronavirus outbreak under control.

As of August 14, the United States had 5.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases, more than any other country in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. Second is Brazil, with 3.2 million confirmed cases, followed by India with nearly 2.5 million cases. Neither Brazil nor India is on the EU’s list either. The United States also leads in coronavirus deaths, with more than 168,000 deaths as of August 14.

On July 1, the European Union opened up to outside travelers for the first time since it closed its borders on March 17 as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the continent. Those restrictions were extended three times, and the latest extension left the ban in place until July 1, 2020. On June 15, Europe’s internal borders reopened to travelers within the European Union. 

The list of countries whose citizens are allowed to travel to Europe is based on several criteria: the number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per capita, a stable or decreasing trend of new cases over the last 14 days, and the country’s overall response to COVID-19—including testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment measures, and treatment.

Under the updated travel restrictions to Europe, citizens from the following countries are allowed to travel to Europe from August 8:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Georgia
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Rwanda
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • Uruguay

The list could also include China, if China agrees to allow EU travelers to visit as well. Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican will be considered as EU residents as part of the lifting of travel restrictions. The original list that was effective from July 1 to July 15 included the countries of Serbia and Montenegro, but they were removed from the July 16 list. Algeria was removed from the July 31 version, and Morocco was removed from the August 8 edition.

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The list is being updated regularly, which leaves open the possibility for countries to be added or removed. It’s not a legally binding list, but EU leaders have agreed that member countries should not independently lift travel restrictions for unlisted countries before it’s been decided upon in a coordinated manner.

The list was agreed upon by what is known as the EU+ area—Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Nevertheless, there have already been some deviations, including Germany, which is only allowing in 7 of the 10 countries on the list, and Croatia, which on July 10 opened up its borders to all international travelers as long as they provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result procured within 48 hours of arriving at the Croatian border or submit to an otherwise mandatory quarantine.

It’s True—Americans Can Travel to This Beautiful European Country Right Now

An exception for family members, students, and others

For countries that didn’t make the list, there are some notable exceptions, including some family members of EU citizens as well as long-term EU residents and some of their family members.

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Member countries can, however, require EU citizens, residents, and their family members to quarantine when they enter Europe from a country not on the approved travel list. Family members include a spouse, a legal partner, direct descendants who are under the age of 21, and any family members who are considered dependents or require the personal care of an EU citizen.

There are several other categories of travelers who will be able to bypass the latest EU restrictions. They include passengers in transit—so if you have a connecting flight in Europe to another destination, that’s a go. If you’re a student traveling to Europe to attend school, you’re good, too. If you’re traveling for “imperative family reasons,” that could earn you a pass as well, though the EU has not offered any specifics on what would be considered an “imperative family reason.”

Essential workers including healthcare professionals and researchers are exempt, as are diplomats, those who work for or have been invited by an international organization “whose physical presence is required for the well-functioning of these organizations.” Humanitarian aid workers get a pass, as do workers whose employment is considered necessary from an economic perspective.

For EU citizens, residents, and their family members in the United States who want to go to Europe, they need to be conscious of the travel restrictions in the U.S. A ban on travel from the European Schengen area, Ireland, and the United Kingdom to the United States remains in place. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (also known as Green Card holders) are exempt (meaning they can enter the United States from Europe), but the exemption does not apply to those who are in the United States on a work or student visa. 

The exceptions aside, “The E.U.’s announcement is incredibly disappointing, and a step in the wrong direction as we seek to rebuild our global economy,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association executive vice president for public affairs and policy. “This is unwelcome news and will have major negative implications for an economic recovery—particularly if this ban results in cycles of retaliation, as is so often the case.”

In July, several major airlines called on the United States and the European Union to restore transatlantic air travel by deploying a joint COVID-19 testing program.

For the first 10 months of 2019, the latest period for which data is available, 16.6 million Americans traveled to Europe, according to U.S. Commerce Department data. The Commerce Department reported that American travelers spent nearly $60 billion in Europe in 2019, and that Europeans spent $73 billion on travel in the United States that same year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in late June that the State Department had “been working with countries all across the world, including our friends in Europe and the E.U. proper, to determine how it is we can best safely reopen travel.” Clearly, that hasn’t been determined yet.

This story originally appeared on June 26, 2020, and has been updated to include current information.

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