E.U. Clears Americans for Travel to Europe

·4 min read

U.S. tourists can travel to Europe this summer, European Union lawmakers in Brussels said on Wednesday. The officials agreed to recommend E.U. member states lift travel restrictions that have been in place for Americans since early 2020. The region will also add the United States to its list of ‘safe’ countries for tourism, alongside the new additions of North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Lebanon, and Taiwan also earning the status. Both changes are expected to become official on Friday, according to a spokesperson for the European Council. 

Some European nations, including Greece and France, already allow Americans to enter their borders, albeit with testing and/or vaccination requirements in place. But the E.U. giving its blessing for all nations across the bloc to permit American travelers is a significant milestone in the broader reopening of travel between the U.S. and Europe. For the first time in over a year, travelers from the U.S. may be permitted to more freely travel around the bloc, although subject to individual country entry requirements. 

While the E.U. recommendation is not contingent on travelers being vaccinated, exact entry requirements will be at the discretion of individual countries, which can require (and some already are) a negative COVID-19 test and/or full vaccination. In May, the region's leaders said they planned to open to Americans this summer because all coronavirus vaccines in use in the U.S. (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) are approved for use by Europe's health officials. The E.U. Council's recommendation is that nations should allow travelers who are either “[fully] vaccinated with an E.U.-approved vaccine" or are an essential traveler.

The list of countries considered ‘safe’ by the E.U. is revised every two weeks, and currently does not include the United Kingdom, which this week delayed its final phase of reopening by one month due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, despite 57 percent of the U.K. population being fully vaccinated. The criteria for a nation to be considered ‘safe’ is that there are “not more than 75 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the previous 14 days," along with other testing and positive-case-rate standards, and “overall response to COVID-19.”

Member states can halt travel at any time via an “emergency brake” established by European leaders as part of its tourism reopening. That plan relies on a digital health pass that rolled out this month in 13 E.U. nations. The pass, called a Green Certificate, will be available for use in all E.U. states on July 1. It confirms COVID-19 vaccination, test, and/or recovery; it is free to use and acceptable in both paper and digital formats via QR code.

Member states already allowing Americans are requiring an array of differing entry requirements, prompting travel agents to warn those considering a trip to double and triple check they meet the rules. France, for example, is only allowing vaccinated Americans who confirm their status via health form, while Greece is allowing Americans regardless of vaccination status if they test negative for COVID-19. Other nations are more complicated: Italy, for example, is only permitting entry via COVID-tested flights from 10 U.S. airports (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, JFK, Newark, Philadelphia, and D.C.), all of which require proof of a PCR test taken 48 hours before travel; a Digital Passenger Form, health self-declaration, and rapid test upon arrival are also mandated. Travelers who don't meet all Italy's requirements are subject to a 10-day quarantine.

Travelers may want to hold off on multi-country Europe trips until entry restrictions are fully enacted and clear, advises Jack Ezon, founder of travel agency Embark Beyond. “The reason is that the language is very unclear,” Ezon says. “Many interpret the directive to exempt Americans only if they fly on a [COVID-tested] flight. These flights don’t exist from other countries at the moment. Thus, if you go to Greece then Italy, you will likely be required to quarantine in Italy for 10 days. The only way you can avoid this 10-day quarantine is if you actually spent 10 days in Europe before going to Italy.”

While Americans can start planning their travel to Europe, the Biden administration still does not permit Europeans to visit the United States for non-essential reasons. That rule was enacted by the Trump administration in March 2020, before Europe moved to ban Americans due to rising coronavirus cases. The new E.U. stance on American travel comes the same week President Biden attended a NATO summit in Brussels that saw meetings with E.U. leaders and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

“It has been 7 years since a US President came to Brussels for a meeting at the EU's table,” von der Leyen tweeted of her meeting with Biden. “The world has changed dramatically since. Today we opened a new, promising chapter in our joint history, with a renewed and strong transatlantic partnership.”

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Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler