How to Avoid the US Travel Ban Without Breaking Any Rules
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the travel industry into a frenzy. In order to contain the spread of the virus, many countries have issued temporary bans, which prohibit foreign travellers from entering their borders.
The United States has also placed strict restrictions on international travellers, leaving many people wondering how to avoid the US travel ban.
And while it’s certainly not straightforward how international travellers can enter the US, it’s not impossible. There are certain ways for European, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand and other citizens to safely and legally enter the US.
Following on from our article about how to avoid the Europe travel ban, a number of readers have also asked how do I avoid the US travel ban?
What are the current international travel restrictions for entry into the US?
With restrictions and rules changing practically every few months, it’s hard to keep track of who is allowed and who is not allowed into the US. These regulations can change at any moment, so it’s always best to check with your local embassy or the CDC guidelines for the most up to date information on COVID-19.
Who is allowed to enter the US? Can I travel to the USA now?
If you are a US citizen or lawful permanent resident travelling or residing overseas, then you are allowed to return to the US during the pandemic. You are also exempt from the travel ban if you are a government employee, airline crew member, or member of the US Armed Forces (or relative of a member of the US Armed Forces).
Some family members of US citizens are also exempt from the travel ban, which means they are able to freely travel the US. These family members include:\
- children (under the age of 21)
- parents (as long as their child is unmarried and under the age of 21)
- siblings (as long as the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21)
Unfortunately, if you don’t have a current visa, the issue you may face is getting a visa as the US embassies closed during the start of the global pandemic. Even the above categories are having problems getting their visas depending on your country.
Although these exemptions help US nationals and their families, it doesn’t exactly tell other foreign citizens how to avoid the US travel ban. Thankfully, there are a few other ways for foreigners to legally enter the US, which we’ll get to a bit later.
In addition to US nationals, the following countries have been specifically allowed entry into the US:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- Canada (air only)
Although the US has not placed any specific bans on the above countries, there may still be travel bans enforced by the individual countries themselves. Australia, for example, has prohibited Australian citizens and pertinent residents from leaving the country. So while they are technically allowed to enter the US, their own government bans them from leaving in the first place. Only recently are Australians permitted to travel to New Zealand.
Finally, the US has started to allow certain visa holders the ability to return to the US despite coming from one of the banned countries. This includes:
- E-1 or E-2 visa holders
- J-1 programs visa holders
Of course, if you fit into one of the allowed travellers’ categories, or have a national interest consideration, you will be able to travel into the US from any country, including the list of banned countries. The CDC has also recently removed the US travel restrictions on which airport you can arrive at in the US.
Who is not allowed to enter the US?
In order to control the spread of COVID-19, the US does not currently allow the entry of foreign nationals who have been in certain countries for the last 14 days. These countries include:
- European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland)
- The United Kingdom ((England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
- Republic of Ireland
It’s important to note that the US has not banned individual citizens of these countries. You are only prohibited from entering the US if you have physically been in one of the above countries 14 days prior to your arrival to the US.
For this reason, there are several workarounds. In this article, we’ll teach you how to avoid the US travel ban if you happen to be residing in one of these banned countries.
Can Europeans travel to the US?
On March 13, 2020, the United States signed a proclamation prohibiting travel from people living or residing in the Schengen area. If you have been in one of the 26 Schengen countries in the last 14 days, then you are not allowed to travel to or enter the US.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that you are only prohibited from entering the US if you’ve been physically present in one of these countries. There are certain ways how to avoid the US travel ban if you’re a European citizen, which we will discuss a bit later.
When the US travel ban was announced by Trump’s presidential proclamation, the European institutions and governments were in an uproar. But soon afterwards, they also instituted their own Europe travel restrictions. This included barring travellers from the US.
Can Australians and New Zealanders travel to the US?
According to the US government, Australians are allowed to enter the US legally. There are no restrictions for Australian nationals, although they cannot enter if they have been in Iran, China, the UK, Ireland, Brazil, or Schengen Area in the last 14 days.
Unfortunately, this is irrelevant because the Australian government has put in place their own travel restrictions. At this time, Australian nationals and permanent residents are not allowed to leave the country unless you have been given an exemption by the government or are travelling to New Zealand.
Although the exemptions are quite strict, there is one easy way that would allow you to leave for the US.
If you’re wondering how to avoid the US travel ban, you can simply tell the Australian government that you have plans to be out of the country for three months or longer. Travelling outside Australia for longer than three months is considered an exemption by the Australian government. This would allow you to bypass the travel restriction and enter the US (or any other country you choose to travel to). You can find more information about that here.
New Zealand citizens are also allowed to enter the United States, as long as they haven’t been in one of the listed high-risk countries. Although the New Zealand government has advised against all foreign travel, there are no travel bans in place. That means New Zealand citizens are allowed to leave the country.
Can South Africans travel to the US?
South Africa has been added to the list of countries banned from entering the USA.. But don’t worry! This does not mean you can’t ever enter the USA while the ban is in place. Read on to find out how you can avoid the travel ban.
Can Britons travel to the US?
At this time, British citizens are not allowed to enter the US if they are leaving from the UK. In addition, Brits are also prohibited from travelling to the US if they’ve been in Iran, China, Ireland, Brazil, or one of the 26 countries in the Schengen area for the past 14 days.
However, there are certain workarounds that would let you enter the US. You just have to know how to avoid the US travel ban, which we’ll discuss in a bit.
Can Canadians travel to the US?
As of March 21, 2020, American and Canadian borders have been closed for non-essential travel. However, this restriction only applies to land borders. One way to avoid the US travel ban is to fly from Canada into the US.
According to the US Customs and Border Control, Canadian citizens are permitted to fly into the United States as long as they haven’t been in Iran, China, the UK, Ireland, Brazil, or Schengen Area for the past 14 days. So while it’s not allowed to cross into the US using one of the land borders, you can still enter the US by flying in from Canada.
Depending on which state you fly into, you might be required to self-isolate or quarantine.
When you return back to Canada, you can either cross over by land or by air. As a Canadian citizen, you are allowed to re-enter your home country at any time and from any border crossing.
However, as per Canadian federal regulations, you will need to isolate for 14 days once you arrive back home.
In addition, the US has closed its land borders for non-essential travel to Canada and Mexico. That means tourists are not allowed to enter the US from Mexico or Canada unless they are US citizens returning back home.
Of course, there are certain exceptions for each country. For a complete list of current exceptions, please refer to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
How to avoid the US travel ban
If you want to know how to avoid the US travel ban, then you’ll be happy to know there are a few workarounds. And due to COVID-19 testing and quarantine restrictions, you can feel comfortable knowing that you can travel across borders into the US safely and legally.
1. Travel from a country that is not included in the ban
While the US currently has banned several countries from entering the US, this only applies to people who have physically been in those said countries for the past 14 days. Even if you’re a citizen of a banned country, you may still be allowed to enter the US by travelling from a country that is not included in the ban.
For example, let’s say you’re a German citizen currently living in Germany. Because Germany is part of the Schengen area, you will not be allowed to enter the US. However, it’s possible for you to leave the Schengen area and enter a country that’s not on the US travel ban list. After the 14-day probation period has passed, you will be allowed to fly into the US.
It’s worth noting that the day of your arrival in a non-banned country and the day of your departure may not be counted so it may be better to spend 2 extra days to be sure you will be allowed to enter the USA, making it a total of 16 days.
Although this is a technical workaround, please keep in mind that your entrance into the US is still determined by a member of the US Customs and Border patrol. Being allowed to enter the US is not guaranteed. As with any border crossing into the US (even before the COVID-19 pandemic), there’s always a possibility that your entrance could be denied for a variety of other reasons.
Which countries in Europe will allow me to travel to the US?
While Europeans are not allowed to fly directly from a Schengen country into the US, they can enter the US from a non-banned country.
One of the easiest countries for Europeans to travel outside the Schengen area is Croatia. While Croatia is part of the EU, it is not a country in the Schengen area. On July 1, 2020, Croatia opened its borders to all EU/Schengen nationals (including UK citizens), as well as to American citizens. If you are currently residing in Europe, you can easily drive or fly to Croatia, reside there for 14 days, and then book a flight to the US.
Bosnia and Herzegovina have also reopened to EU/Schengen nationals in July. Although you will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test, it’s still an option if you’re wondering how to avoid the US travel ban.
European citizens are also allowed to travel to Bulgaria and Serbia without any test or quarantine restrictions. Montenegro‘s borders have also opened, although some countries with high infection rates may be required to self-isolate or show a negative COVID-19 test.
Romania is open to some Schengen countries. Flights from Sweden, Portugal, and the UK are suspended, while travellers from Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein are required to self-isolate for 14 days.
It’s also possible for European citizens to fly into Turkey. At the moment, there are no restrictions or mandatory quarantines for any foreign citizens entering the country. After staying in Turkey for 14 days, you’ll be allowed to fly into the US, bypassing the travel ban. There are multiple non-stop flights from Istanbul to different cities in the US, including New York, Chicago, Las Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami.
2. Visiting family in the US
As previously mentioned, foreign nationals are able to bypass the travel ban if they have relatives living in the US. If you are coming from one of the banned countries on this list, you can still enter the US if you meet the following criteria:
- spouse of US citizen
- child of US citizen (under the age of 21)
- parent of US citizen (as long as their child is unmarried and under the age of 21)
- sibling of US citizen (as long as the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21)
Do I need a visa to travel to the US?
If you’re planning a trip to the US and wondering how to avoid the US travel ban, one of your first steps is to find out if you need a visa. Though the Visa Waiver Program, the US has granted citizens from certain countries to enter the US without needing to obtain a visa beforehand.
Citizens of countries in the European Union (with the exception of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, and Romania) are allowed to enter the US visa-free for up to 90 days. This is regardless of if you’re travelling during or after the pandemic.
Australian and New Zealand citizens are also part of the Visa Waiver Program, which means they can enter the US without needing to register for a visa.
America’s friendly neighbours to the north can also enter visa-free. Canadians are not required to apply for a visa to enter the US.
On the other hand, South Africa is not part of the Visa Waiver Program, which means its citizens must apply for a visa before entering the country. This makes travelling to the US during the pandemic tricky, as the US government has currently put a hold on issuing tourist visas for foreigners.
3. Get a National Interest Exemption
A National Interest Exemption (NIE) allows some individuals to enter the USA. The duration of the NIE has recently been extended to 12 months, provided that the purpose for travelling is the same.
If you belong to any of the categories below, you may be qualified to apply for an NIE:
- Vital Support
- Students/Academics and Journalists
- Immigrants and Fiancé(e)s
- Pilots and Air Crew Traveling for Training and Aircraft Pickup, Delivery, or Maintenance
- Other Reasons for Exemption
Read our blog post on the National Interest Exemption to find out more about the NIE and how to apply for one!
Do I need to quarantine once I’m in the US?
Now that you know how to avoid the US travel ban, it’s essential to understand the different safety measures and precautions in place for when you arrive. Each state in the US handles travellers differently, and many of these regulations apply to both domestic and international travellers. Some states require that you show a negative Covid-19 PCR on arrival, while others may require you to self-quarantine for 14 days.
While these restrictions can change at a moment’s notice, it’s still important to review the measures in place before you book a flight to the US. There are numerous US states that have mandatory quarantine measures in place, which could impact what you are able to see and do during your visit. If you’re only visiting the US for a short period of time, you probably don’t want to spend two of those weeks quarantined inside a hotel room.
New York has added checkpoints to both out of state visits as well as international visits. You can read more about the individual state’s requirements here.
UPDATE: Quarantine Required for All Travellers, Europe Travel Ban Still in Effect
Starting 26 January 2021, all travellers coming to the US will be required to quarantine and submit a negative PCR test. Read more in our blog post here.
Can I transit from a European country to the USA?
No, the travel ban includes transit from a banned country, so transit from Europe is not allowed under this ban.
What is the best route to take when travelling from a non-banned country?
As long as you are travelling from a country that is not banned from entry into the US (and have been staying there for 14 days), you will be able to enter the country.
Can I enter the US from a banned country if I’m vaccinated or have a negative test result?
No, the US does not accept vaccinated travellers or travellers with a negative COVID result from the banned countries.
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