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There Are Some Important Exceptions to the EU Travel Ban, Including for Family Members

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EU citizens and some members of their family can travel to the country where they have citizenship, even if they don’t currently live there.

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EU citizens and some members of their family can travel to the country where they have citizenship, even if they don’t currently live there.

As Europe opened up its external borders to a select set of foreigners on July 1, citizens from countries that didn’t make the list—including the United States—can bypass the restrictions if they fall into several categories of travelers.

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You could feel American travelers’ collective hearts sink upon hearing they wouldn’t be welcomed into the European Union anytime soon—or at least when it reopened its borders to foreigners on July 1. 

Earlier this week, the EU agreed on a list of 14 countries whose travelers will be allowed back into the continent for the first time since its external borders closed in mid-March. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan (and tentatively China) made the cut in exchange for a reciprocal benefit; the United States did not due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis stateside. 

Thankfully, this isn’t the end of the road for travel to Europe from the United States this summer—the list will be updated every two weeks, which leaves open the possibility for countries to be added or removed as their coronavirus situation evolves.

There’s an exception for family members and expats

Until travel opens up more, one of the more devastating aspects of the coronavirus pandemic has been the ways in which families and loved ones have been kept apart—for months in some cases. Thus, we were encouraged by an exception to the European Union’s restrictions of foreign travelers: EU citizens (and citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) and some family members can travel to the country where they have citizenship, even if they don’t currently live there. Long-term EU residents and their family members are exempted as well.

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“Family members” include a spouse; a legal partner; direct descendants under the age of 21; any family members of the same household; or those who are considered dependents or require the personal care of an EU citizen.

This certainly will still not help a lot of families, but it could help some. It doesn’t help me, for instance. My brother lives in Romania and has dual citizenship (in Romania and the United States), but I cannot travel to see him because I do not fall into any of the above specifications for family members. But if I were married to a European citizen, we could travel together to my husband’s country of origin, or I could travel to see him there.

Unfortunately, the EU did not provide many additional specifics.

Exempted family members could be required to quarantine if they are coming from a country that isn’t on the approved travel list—but for families longing to get back together, a 14-day quarantine may be a pill they’re willing to swallow.

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 United States. A ban on travel from Europe 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.

Passengers in transit, students among those exempt from Europe travel ban, too

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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. Hopefully, the EU will provide additional guidance and more specifics regarding these important exceptions in the coming days and weeks, as we all await a further reopening of borders and improved progress in the fight against the pandemic.

>> Next: It’s Official—Americans Won’t Be Allowed Into Europe When It Reopens

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