Fully vaccinated U.S. travelers should soon be able to bypass the more than year-long ban on travel to Europe, the head of the European Commission told the New York Times on April 25.
The European Union “will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by EMA [the European Medicines Agency],” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told the New York Times. The three vaccines that have been approved for use in the United States—Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson—have all been approved for use in Europe.
“This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union,” she said.
Von der Leyen did not say exactly when the European Commission would formalize its recommendations to allow vaccinated Americans to bypass the current ban on travel to Europe. But other European leaders have indicated that this summer, if not sooner, is the goal.
France recently announced its intentions to open to Americans by summer and a handful of European countries have already started opening up to travelers who are either vaccinated or present negative COVID-19 test results, including Greece and Iceland.
“We are working hard to propose a very concrete solution, especially for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in an April 18 interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.
In the full transcript of the interview, when asked if vaccinated Americans will be able to visit France this summer, the French president responded, “I hope so, and I do think so.”
Macron said that French officials are “finalizing” the discussions and that the country plans to begin “progressively” lifting restrictions in May, with the aim of having a plan in place by summertime.
On April 19, the Greek government began a phased reopening of its borders, marking the first time international travelers could visit the Mediterranean country since Europe’s borders closed in March 2020.
Iceland relaxed its border restrictions for vaccinated travelers in late March, which followed similar moves by Croatia, Estonia, and Georgia (Montenegro has since joined the pack as well).
Von der Leyen’s statements come one month after European officials revealed their plans for facilitating safe travel within Europe. In March, the European Commission proposed introducing a Digital Green Certificate to EU residents who have been vaccinated, who have tested negative for COVID-19, or who have recovered from the disease; the certificate would allow travel throughout the 27-nation bloc. The goal is to have that system up and running by the summer.
Talks are underway between the U.S. and the European Union over how to make such vaccine certificates acceptable for visitors to use as well, said Von der Leyen.
For transatlantic travel to be able to resume, the epidemiological situation will need to continue to improve in the United States and in Europe, she added. So far, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the United States has been more rapid than most of the campaigns in Europe, where many countries have also been battling a recent wave of coronavirus cases amid the emergence of more transmissable coronavirus variants.
Travel between the United States and Europe has been off-limits to many international travelers since March 17, 2020, when European Union leaders agreed to impose travel restrictions on most foreigners entering Europe to limit the spread of COVID-19. Those restrictions were ultimately extended until July 1, 2020, when the European Union began welcoming back travelers from a short list of countries that had been approved by its leaders.
The United States has never been on the list. Conversely, the United States still has a ban in place on travelers from the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, with the exception of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. From the original 14 approved countries, the list has shrunk to just 6, according to the latest version on the European Union’s Re-Open EU site.
The six countries currently on the European Commission list for entry are Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.
There are numerous exceptions to the ban on travel to Europe, including for European citizens and residents and their family members, passengers in transit, and students.
It appears that being vaccinated for COVID-19 will soon be considered an exception as well.