U.S. Entry Travel Restrictions & Travelling with ESTA Application during COVID-19

travelling with esta application during covid 19

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On September 20, 2021, Jeffrey Zients, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House, declared the Biden administration’s plans to lift travel ban restrictions by the 8th of November. The requirement for this is that for entry into the US by non-citizens from any part of the world, you must be able to show proof of having taken the COVID vaccines. Also, the outcome from the coronavirus test during the three days preceding their depart with their flight from a foreign country traveling to the US. must not be positive.

On October 12, 2021, the announcement of the lifting the ban by early November was supported with a statement that revealed the only acceptable vaccines. For the ban to follow through, the administration stated that the vaccines that are required are only those approved by the US FDA or by WHO. The vaccines that are currently approved include Pfizer-BioNTech (FDA and WHO); Oxford-AstraZeneca/Covishield (WHO); Moderna (FDA and WHO); Johnson & Johnson (FDA and WHO); Sinopharm (WHO); Sinovac (WHO).

On October 14, 2021, NAFSA, in conjunction with the ACE and 36 other organizations, forwarded a letter of which content was a request to the Biden administration to acknowledge international students, scholars, and researchers from the countries in which the citizens are delayed in obtaining the vaccines as the vaccine are hardly attainable. Or where these approved vaccines by the US are not widely made available, be given the opportunity to enter the US, and upon arrival, get the vaccines and proceed with getting vaccinated.

The Administration also intends to proffer further recommendations to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including maintaining the mask mandate through January 18, 2022. They intend to widen the testing requirements before departure and after arrival.

The Plans to Lift Travel Ban Restrictions by November 8th

The United States intends to lift the travel ban from the 8th of November, for the travelers that have gotten completely vaccinated. Tourists, business travelers, citizens of the European Union, and the United Kingdom can once again choose the United States for their business trips or tourist destination. The White House made this announcement on September 20, 2021, and it is applicable to travelers who want to enter the US by air.

Now, this would cause the US travel restrictions which got proposed and implemented to reduce the spread of the coronavirus for most of the past year to come to an end. The coronavirus pandemic, with travel restrictions, has been an easy source of mental instability and financial downfall for many well-meaning people. The news by the US to lift the travel ban is only but welcomed with hopeful minds.

Starting November, there will be no need to go into quarantine when you arrive in the United States or when you return to the European Union or the United Kingdom. However, the US travel restrictions are still going to be enforced up until the day the ban is stated to be lifted in November. You should note that the ban is not tied to your nationality, rather it focuses on your recent travel history.

Can I Apply for an ESTA to Travel to the U.S. during COVID

USA Coronavirus Live Map (Updated May 30, 2024)

The Coronavirus location maps below will show the current data for both infected cases and deaths.

These maps will not only update live, but they will predict the most suitable travel arrangements and share available options as they monitor the COVID statistics. In spite of some states being slightly less hit with the virus than others, the US government still recommends that travel plans, especially into any US State, should be postponed this season and more. Not heeding this advice could escalate the actual number of cases.

Source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/ 

Who Can Travel to the United States?

With the US lift travel ban for entry into the country from November, the groups of people listed below are the ones that are identified as eligible for entry into the US as regards the requirements for lifting of the ban.

  • Fully vaccinated international travelers with the presentation of COVID-19 vaccination certificate and a negative test result (no longer than 72 hours old).

A vaccination certificate is proof that acts as a qualification to not be subjected to the US travel restrictions. Therefore, this certificate must be presented as part of the documents for entry into the United States (there are yet some exceptions to this).

  • US citizens who are not vaccinated.

There is a need to note that the US travel restrictions still apply to international over-the-road travelers. Currently, it is undecided whether unvaccinated international travelers but have a National Interest Exception (NIE) may be permitted entry into the country.

What Are the Vaccines That have been Approved According to the US government?

To bring no misunderstanding to the term "fully vaccinated", the CDC defines what it is to be fully vaccinated which is in alignment with the White House’s perception of the term. The CDC declared that, to be given positive feedback for your US travel, only the vaccines that have the approval of the FDA as well as the category of vaccines that the WHO identifies as emergency vaccines.


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Hence, in no particular order, the list below shows the vaccines that have recently been approved for entry into the US:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Novavax
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • AstraZeneca
  • Moderna

It is permitted if you cross-vaccinate any of these vaccines as you wish.

Exceptions to The Travel Ban

As earlier stated, the US travel restrictions are still going to be enforced up until the day the ban is stated to be lifted in November. However, US travel restrictions are not applicable to a certain group of people who are still made exclusive to the conditions given. These groups of people are allowed entry into the United States regardless of the US travel restrictions. They will have applied for an NIE (National Interest Exception).

With the exceptions to the entry ban in place already for citizens of the US, family members, and NIE carriers to the US, the US travel restrictions will still not be applicable to these groups of people and will set still till November.

The ESTA also permits exclusivity to the US travel restrictions which are applicable to the residents of the US including the people with US nationality, as well as their children, spouse, or partner. On the same note, an exception also covers parents or legal guardians, and unmarried siblings of US citizens below age 21 or US citizens below age 21.

The implication of these is that the mentioned people will be permitted to travel to the United States with an ESTA and without an additional permit from the embassy. However, from recommendations, there is a need to present documentation to authenticate your relationship status concerning the conditions. For example, you need to present a document that shows for a fact your relationship with a US citizen (e.g. a birth cert, marriage cert, photograph of a US passport, etc).

National Interest Exception

Exceptions will be granted for the set of people whose travel purpose to the United States is of the country’s interest, according to Homeland Security. Travelers who believe that their purpose of travel to the United States fulfils the conditions or have other compelling reasons for traveling should make contact with the Visa Section of the US Embassy.

Also, travelers with only an ESTA and do not need to show a visa, and have a travel purpose of the country’s interest or other valid, urgent purpose, can equally apply for an exception at the US Embassy via a form. In this form, it should be stated clearly why they should be covered by the exception, and backed up with supporting documents.

An NIE’s validity is a year, but in this period, it could be used for as many trips as necessary. A prerequisite, however, is that the purpose for travel fulfils the condition stated.

What if I Wish to Return to the UK?

As long as you have taken the vaccine and have the proof of a document, you are exempted from taking a pre-departure test. Not only that, you are not required to undergo the quarantine process when returning to the UK. However, it is imperative that you book a day where the COVID-19 test will be taken upon arrival.

If I Present A Positive COVID-19 Test, Will I Still Make Entry?

The travel requirement set around January 2021 which states the need to show a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery will still be in place regardless of the lift of the travel ban. It is hence imperative for US travelers to submit a negative COVID-19 test which should not be longer than three days old. Either that or proof of recovery from COVID-19. The departure time makes the case for decision. There are varying rules applicable for connecting flights past 24 hours. Without a show of those two pieces of evidence, you may be denied boarding by airlines.

The US citizens that are unvaccinated but wish to return to the United States will be set for even stringent testing conditions: Their COVID-19 test document must reveal negative a day prior to entry into the US and another test must be done post-arrival.

If I have a delayed flight and I exceed the 72-hour rule, does it count?

Delayed flights that stretch the time further for the test result above the set 72-hr rule before departure, a retake of the test is required before approval can be granted for travel.

Will Unvaccinated Children be allowed entry into the USA?

At this period, it is unclear as to whether an exemption from the vaccination conditions is applicable to the children. The US currently recommends for families desist from making family travel plans to the USA. This is just until vivid statements regarding unvaccinated children have been declared.

Is there a Need for Fully Vaccinated US Travelers to go on Quarantine?

The practice has been that both the vaccinated and the people not vaccinated, before their US entry, who had visited one or two of the countries issued as ban within the 14 days will only be permitted entry to the US with an NIE in light of the US travel restrictions being active. As it is now, this will not be applicable for fully vaccinated travelers after the ban is lifted in November. Following the current update, fully vaccinated US travelers will not be subject to quarantine requirements.

However, it is still unclear whether the 14-day condition will still be fixed for travelers not vaccinated with an NIE.

Can My ESTA Be Cancelled?

If the US Immigration Service suspects that the acts of a traveler are not in line with the travel ban or the US travel restrictions, his or her ESTA may be canceled. The moment the traveler is found not guilty of non-compliance, he can go ahead with a new application for an ESTA.

Can I Currently Apply for an ESTA?

It is possible to submit an ESTA application for your US trip whenever you choose to as it is simply done online, even before you have booked your trip. An ESTA is a digitally authorized form for travel. However, its validity is two years only, and lesser if your passport expires earlier. The recommendation is that your application for an ESTA should be immediately you desire a trip to the US.

When traveling on an ESTA:

You are required to be with a return ticket with an airline company that is marked for ESTAs.

  • You can only stay for no longer than 90 days.
  • You must ensure that no part of the USA Immigration Law has been violated (i.e., overstaying the 90 days) previously.

In addition,

  • If, for U.S. citizen who also possesses dual nationality with a Visa Waiver Program country, it is not necessary to possess an ESTA. Your U.S. passport will serve as your means of identification for a trip to the USA.
  • You must be up to date with the updates to the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act.
  • ESTA ineligible applicants are those VWP countries’ citizen who are representatives and also nationals of North Korea, Syria, Sudan, or Iraq.

More COVID-19 Rules During Your US Travel

Since the 14th of May 2021, fully vaccinated US citizens are exempted from the use of face masks and maintaining a safe distance from people. The only period where face masks beige mandatory is in crowded indoor areas, such as the hospitals and public transport. The use of a face mask is also imperative during flight to and fro the USA.

Fully vaccinated travelers for a minimum of two weeks are exempted from the quarantine process upon arrival in the United States. The people who have not attained the complete vaccination are required to go into self-isolation for 7 days after arrival. However, everyone as well as the vaccinated travelers, are required to be tested 3 to 5 days post-arrival.


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