When Will Europe Open Up to US Passport Holders?

covid-19 Sep 01, 2020

Wishing you could visit Europe? You’re not alone. Each year, 18 million Americans visit Europe, and American travelers make up an astonishing 50% of all hotel stays in the continent. Unfortunately, the EU has barred US travelers from entering EU member countries.

As of today, September 1st, Americans are still barred from EU countries. This post will give a quick update on the history of the EU travel ban, when US travelers may be able to travel again, and other important travel updates.

What is the Europe Travel Ban?

In March, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, European countries entered lockdown and the EU Council agreed to close their borders to visitors.  On July 1st, the EU is open to certain “safe list” countries where the coronavirus was under control, but the US wasn't one of them. Due to the high number of US cases per capita, the EU is still banning US travelers as of today's date, September 1, 2020.

Why did Europe decide to ban US travelers?

In late June, the EU decided to reopen to certain countries. In particular they focused on countries with low infection rates per capita. The US was not one of these.

Similar to how President Trump stopped travel from China and then Europe in the early days of the pandemic, the EU has decided to do the same thing to US travelers on July 1st. Two months later, the EU ban is still in place.

What Criteria Does Europe Use to Assess Banned Countries?

The EU Council made the decision to reopen the continent to select countries in July. Together they’re known as the safe list, and they’re the only nations that the EU members are encouraged to open their borders to (some have chosen not to open even to the safe list). The list, which changes frequently, is based on certain metrics for COVID-19 containment, like:

  • Low infection rates: The EU Council selects countries for the safe list that have an infection rate equal to the EU or lower. The EU infection rate is currently 46 per 100,000. The US infection rate is 183 per 100,000.
  • Social Distancing and Mask Protocols: The Council prioritizes countries that have “sufficient” social distancing and mask rules in place.
  • Dropping Cases: Countries have to have cases trending downward to be considered for the safe list.

Which Countries Are Allowed to Visit Europe?

The safe list is updated about every two weeks, but as of September 1, it currently contains ten countries. They are:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Georgia
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Rwanda
  • Uruguay
  • Thailand
  • South Korea
  • Tunisia

Will Europe Reopen to US Passport Holders Soon?

Although the US still has the most cases in the world, US cases have been on the decline since the end of July. Despite the improvement, the US is still far from the acceptable case level to meet EU standards.

Although overall US cases are dropping, COVID-19 spread still varies vastly by state, and some states are doing much better than others. In parts of the US, the infection rate is lower than the EU, such as Maine (infection rate is currently 13 per 100,0000) and New York (infection rate is 22 per 100,000), while others are far higher, like Iowa (current infection rate is 248 per 100,000). Because of wildly differing infection rates, it’s possible that the EU could choose to reopen to only certain US states.

Where Can Americans Go in the Meantime?

The EU Council recommendations are not binding, and members can choose to reopen to countries not on the list. A few European countries, including some that are not in the EU, have chosen to open up to Americans. As of September 1, here are the countries in Europe that are open to US passport holders:

  • Armenia (with a negative COVID-19 test at airport)
  • Belarus
  • Croatia (with a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of arrival)
  • Serbia
  • Kosovo
  • Turkey
  • Ireland (with mandatory 14-day quarantine)
  • UK (with mandatory 14-day quarantine).

As other countries in or near Europe open their borders to Americans, we will update this post. Of course, you should take coronavirus precautions when traveling and you should not travel if you are ill.

Final Thoughts: Better News This Fall or Winter?

If the downward trend in coronavirus cases in the US continues, it’s possible that the EU Council will add the US to the safe list this fall or winter. US travelers are a major driver of European tourism, and as soon as it is safe to do so many European countries would like to be able to welcome American tourists.

The US still has a long way to go to get that infection rate per capita down. In the meantime, many people are deciding this is a good time to renew passports. Can't go anywhere, so might be a good time to check your passport expiration. If it's expiring in the next 12-18 months, we also have a door-to-door passport renewal service, so you can skip going to the post office or CVS for photos.

We'll try to keep this posted updated as the Europe Travel Ban status changes.

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