It has been more than two months since the United States and all of Europe have issued restrictions on movement including “Do Not Travel,” “Lockdown,” and “Stay at Home” orders, due the 2019 novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease. As the US re-opens citizens are getting back to work, several countries in the Schengen area―France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Germany and more―begin to re-open people are rejoicing as they visit family members and enjoy parks, restaurants and even haircuts.
Everyone thinking about their next American holiday is wondering how the restrictions throughout Europe and the United States will affect ESTA approved travel for latter 2020 and early 2021. Naturally, the images of the US and parts of Europe re-opening are abundant and uplifting. Europeans are stepping out of the shadows of the strict lockdowns and business closures that have kept people home since mid-March. As summer is fast approaching many Europeans are thinking about their annual holiday plans and many are wondering, “When will the United States be open for travel from Europe?”
In the United States the restrictions on entry for Visa Waiver Program travelers is still in place. The US government has indicated it will probably not be lifting restrictions on entry for those limited by the Proclamations halting entry for any foreign nationals who have been in Schengen zone countries and the UK and Ireland (and a few other places such as China) for several weeks or more.
The US has eagerly begun its phased reopening. National Parks in Arizona and Utah have re-opened, Miami Beach in Florida is opening in early June, and hotels are welcoming in many regions of the country. All done with restrictions aimed at social distancing in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants are open, salons and gyms are also. When ESTA approved travelers from Europe are allowed entry again they will find much of America is open―with a new normal in terms of physical spacing,
Will Europeans be able to travel soon?
Throughout Europe people are slowly emerging from the lockdown imposed by countries in March. And everywhere birds are singing, flowers are blooming and parks, lakes and beaches are greeting people who are allowed to move about after strict lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the virus in countries throughout the European region.
Will European countries be welcoming visitors for summer holiday? In the UK some restrictions will be lifted in mid-June. On 25 May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans for the Phase 2 re-opening which includes non-essential retail. He said, “From June 15, we intend to allow all nonessential retail – ranging from department stores to small independent shops – to reopen.” Cheers from homes and gardens across the UK surely rang out as Ikea shoppers probably silently planned their first shopping expeditions in more than 2 months.
In France, schools for some grades have re-opened as have most shops, sans those in shopping centers. Gatherings of fewer than 10 people are now allowed, and some beaches are opening. Car journeys of up to 100km are allowed so visits to family commence. Portugal has discussions underway for a potential air bridge with England about which the foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, told the BBC that anyone, “wanting a holiday in Portugal this summer would be “most welcome.”
As of 18 May in Italy, restaurants, museums, and shops have opened and Catholic Masses have resumed. Most importantly to many, Italian citizens are now permitted to travel within the country to visit family members. And on 3 June Italy opened borders for “most travelers from Europe.” In Spain, where some of the strictest containment measures in Europe have been in effect since mid-March, the easing of restrictions has been done in careful phases. And on Wednesday, 20 May, Spanish Parliament voted to extend the state of emergency until June 7th. While speaking to during the session Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, “We are getting closer to Spain regaining its vitality, to citizenship regaining their lives. There is future and there is hope.” Spain is considering open land borders as soon as late June.
Greece will be one of the first EU and Schengen Area countries to welcome visitors. The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said on 21 May that seasonal hotels will open to visitors soon. “The tourism period begins on 15 June, when seasonal hotels can reopen,” the prime minister said. “Let us make this summer the epilogue of the crisis.” Currently citizens of 29 countries are allowed entry. Ferry service to the island―the primary method of transport to the outlier Greek paradise―is operational and eateries have re-opened as the country bustles to welcome tourists during this, its high season. In Germany, restaurants, shops, and schools have reopened. On 15 June borders will reopen to all EU member states including Schengen countries Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the UK.
While Europeans are advised against foreign travel outside the region the welcome first step may be local travel and for many a chance to visit family from whom they have been separated since March. For those planning travel to the United States with the Visa Waiver Program, keeping an eye of autumn and season winter holiday travel may be more realistic than daydreaming of a classic American summer holiday.
How travel will change due to the coronavirus
We are already seeing some signals from the travel industry of changes to the way in which we travel due to the novel coronavirus and the spread of the COVID-19 disease. Air Travelers are already seeing examples of the some of the new measures anticipated to be part of air travel experience. May airlines in the US and throughout Europe are requiring that all passengers, flight crews, and terminal personnel wear face coverings or masks both on board aircrafts and in terminal buildings. Many airlines are experimenting with seating configuration changes, such as not filling middle seats. Rail travel will look different as well. It is reported that masks and face coverings will be required before passengers can board and in train terminals. Public transportation companies including train, tube, metro, rideshare and taxi services, are rolling out plans for required face coverings, and other safety measures. Uber announced new requirements for face covering for drivers and customers and has halted the use of the front passenger seat. Cruise lines will have many new safety protocols in place when they resume service and big changes are expected to be announced soon.
ESTA approved US travel after the travel restrictions are lifted
The Proclamation restricting entry for ESTA-approved travelers and most others into the United States for Schengen area countries, The UK and Ireland is still in place. This may be so for several more weeks; in fact, there is no date set for easing the restrictions. It has been suggested that the temporary travel ban will be lifted individually and not for all of Europe at once. To keep updated you can follow our blog for current travel news related to the US Proclamation(s), the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and the state of travel due to the coronavirus.
When travel restrictions are lifted, tourists and business travelers alike who have authorization of the VWP, may travel to and within the United States with a flexible 90-day limit that the ESTA offers. To learn about eligibility for the VWP and ESTA, you can visit our comprehensive ESTA Guide here. Ready to apply? Find the ESTA application here.