Travel between the US and UK is easier — but more in theory than in reality
By Ricky Browne
Freedom Day means that the UK is returning fast to how life existed pre-Covid-19. But not completely, as much of the globe is still locked off from travel — and that includes the USA for most British residents.
And there isn’t much that the UK can do about it – because even as it becomes easier for British residents to travel abroad to amber countries, it doesn’t follow that those countries allow British residents to visit them.
More than 70 percent of the adult population has been vaccinated in the UK, one of the highest rates in the world, and deaths and hospitalisation rates are low.
But infection rates – though declining – remain high by global standards, with about 25,000 people being infected with the virus each day.
So, as a result, though Americans and US residents can now visit the UK without too much bother – the same is not in reverse.
“We need to get the travel industry moving again: said Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier today. But he notes that the big fear is bringing in a new variant that is vaccine-resistant.
From today people arriving from the US and most of the EU no longer have to go into self-isolation if they have been fully vaccinated. The will still need to take a test before leaving and one two days after arriving.
But the late change to the rules means that some families may not get the chance to be reunited yet. School in the US ends much earlier than in the UK, and also returns much earlier.
Some children in Texas, for example, must go back to school on August 11 – which leaves very little time for a decent holiday with family in the UK.
And even if allowed to travel by the UK, US citizens are unlikely to be coming over in large numbers, as the US health protection agency is urging them not to travel here.
Meanwhile, even though travel over to the UK from the US is now much easier, the same is not true going in the opposite direction.
British residents are not being allowed the same access to the US, and actually can not currently enter, as the country is concerned over the UK’s high rate of infection.
Before this pandemic, about 3.8 million British residents would visit the United States each year.
According to the gov.uk website: “It is not possible for most British nationals to enter the USA if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, China, South Africa or India within the previous 14 days. Those arriving from outside these areas will need to get a visa or an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver to enter or transit the USA as a visitor. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need.”
But, at least there is some comfort in knowing that several other countries are in the same position.
The list of countries that cannot currently visit the USA includes:
- The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe.
- The Republic of Ireland.
- The 26 countries that comprise the 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, and Switzerland).
- The Federative Republic of Brazil.
- The Islamic Republic of Iran.
- The People’s Republic of China, not including the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
- The Republic of South Africa.
On the face of it, It means that families who have not seen their children or grandchildren from perhaps the summer of 2019, must continue to wait – hoping that the children will not have forgotten all memories of the children by the time of the next visit.
But that is actually not the case, as the Presidential Proclamation does make allowance for people who have a spouse or child in the US.
“This particular Presidential Proclamation does not apply to “any alien who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.” Children must be unmarried and under the age of 21,” says the US Embassy in the UK on its site.
So it might not be impossible to visit the US now for some British residents. But travellers to the US will require at least two Covid tests, one before leaving and one three to five days after arrival. Combined with the UK requirements, that will mean at least four tests – the cost of which could be greater than the cost of a return air ticket.
And entry will require approval by the border agent, who will need to be satisfied that the incoming person really does qualify.
And different states within the USA have different rules on quarantine, which are subject to change.
“If you are travelling domestically within the US, individual states and territories may have their own quarantine requirements,” gov.uk notes.
It says:.” You should check the list frequently as it is likely to change, sometimes daily, as rates of COVID-19 transmission increase or decrease.”
When, if ever, will UK citizens be able to jump on a plane to make a spontaneous trip to New York or Rome or indeed anywhere?