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COVID-19 RULES

COMPARE: What are the entry rules around Europe for American travellers?

While the EU has added the US to its so-called Covid "white list" for travel the rules for American travellers entering EU countries are decided on at a national level. That means there are differences depending on where you are going.

COMPARE: What are the entry rules around Europe for American travellers?
File photo taken on May 28, 2021 Travelers are seen at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport. AFP

The Local knows from the many questions we get from readers just how many Americans wish to travel to Europe this summer, whether for a holiday, visit their second home or to see members of their family that they haven’t seen in a long time.

But despite lowering infection rates in most countries in Europe, travel remains problematic and in some EU countries it’s still banned, even for fully vaccinated Americans (see below for clarification on what ‘fully vaccinated’ means in travel terms).

It’s also worth noting that even before we get the rules in place across Europe, the US has its own rules that American travellers are supposed to adhere to when it comes to travel to European countries.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues travel advisories for each country with most countries in Europe ranked level 3, for which travel is advised against, or level 4 such as Sweden, where Americans are advised not to travel at all.

So it’s worth checking before you even look at what the rules are in the countries covered by The Local.

European Union

On Friday June 18th EU member states paved the way for the return of American tourists  when they agreed to add the US to the “white list” of countries with low Covid-19 rates.

But the list is only a recommendation with countries deciding at a national level what their entry policy is when it comes to borders.

EU member states can still choose to require travellers from these areas to undergo Covid-19 testing or to observe periods in quarantine, but once the new list is approved the recommendation is that they should be exempted from a blanket travel ban.

It was not immediately clear whether individual countries would follow the lead of the EU, with many already having imposed their own rules on travellers from the US.

Here’s a look at some of the rules imposed by some countries in Europe.

France

Since June 17th, the USA and Canada have been on France’s ‘green list’ for travel, which makes entering the country a lot easier. Both were previously on the orange list, which meant that only essential travel was allowed for people who were not fully vaccinated.

However all travellers from the USA and Canada can now enter France for any reason, including tourism, family visits and visits to second homes.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel between France and the USA or Canada

Travellers who are fully vaccinated need to present only their proof of vaccination at the border and do not need a Covid test. 

Unvaccinated travellers will need a negative Covid test – either a PCR or antigen test – taken within the previous 72 hours.

All passengers will need to fill in a declaration stating that they have no Covid-19 symptoms – you can find the declaration HERE.

EXPLAINED How does France’s traffic light travel system work?

Italy

Italy has begun to allow entry from the United States under the same terms as the EU-wide ‘health pass’ scheme as of June 21st.

That means Italy’s ten-day quarantine rule will no longer apply to arrivals from the US who can provide proof of being fully vaccinated or having recovered from Covid-19, or can show a negative result from a test taken within the 48 hours before arrival in Italy.

Until now, Italy had only waived the quarantine rule for those who took special ‘Covid-free’ flights operated by four airlines.

Passengers don’t need to download an Italian ‘green pass’ – they can instead use health documents issued in the US, and these will be accepted by airlines and Italian authorities.

Under the new rules, “Those vaccinated in the USA can prove this via the ‘white card’ bearing a CDC logo,” according to the Italian Embassy in Washington.

All passengers also need to fill in a passenger locator form giving their contact details. Find it here.

Spain

On June 7th, Spain started to allow in vaccinated US citizens together with other immunised non-EU/EEA nationals who can now visit the country for non-essential reasons such as holidays.

The conditions for these travellers are that they completed their Covid-19 inoculation at least 14 days before travel to Spain and that they can prove their immunisation through a certificate or documentation “issued by the competent authorities” in the US (more info here). 

Before travelling to Spain, they have to complete a health control form on Spain’s Travel Health website or app in which they’ll have to confirm their vaccinated status to get a QR code to show at the airport together with the vaccination certificate. If you have problems getting your QR for travel through the site or app, here are some potential solutions

As things stand, American travellers who are not yet fully vaccinated cannot travel to Spain for non-essential reasons, but as the infection rate drops in the US and the vaccine rollout advances, the chances of the United States being included in Spain’s list of third countries which are exempt from travel restrictions will increase. 

The US State Department has also eased travel restrictions for Spain, meaning that American authorities have also given vaccinated US nationals the green light to travel to Spain. 

For a more in-detail look at what Americans need to know before travelling to Spain, click here

Germany

The German Government on June 20th lifted travel restrictions for people in the United States.

It means that travel to Germany from the US for all purposes, including tourism, is allowed again.

But there are restrictions: all air travellers aged six or older coming from the US must show either proof of vaccination, proof of recovery from Covid-19 or a negative Covid test result.

On entry, travellers must have proof of vaccination in written form (for example a CDC card) or digital form. The government says that a photo taken on a phone is not sufficient. 

All travellers must also not have any Covid symptoms. 

Germany removed the United States as a risk area as of June 13th 2021, which means people coming from the states do not have to register digitally before arrival. 

Denmark 

On June 19th, Denmark classed the US as “yellow”, meaning that even unvaccinated travellers who are permanent residents in the US can now travel from the US to Denmark for any reason, including tourism. 

US travellers who are not vaccinated or cannot document recovery from a Covid-19 infection need to show a negative test no more than 48 hours old at a border control checkpoint upon entry to Denmark.

Travellers arriving by air can do this on arrival at the airport, where there are facilities offering free tests before border control, but it might be safer to do so prior to departure. 

Permanent residents of the US who are travelling to Denmark from a third country outside of the EU or the Schengen area classed as “orange” will also need to show a negative Covid-19 test no more than 48 hours old before boarding their plane. 

Permanent residents of the US who are travelling to Denmark from a third country classed as “red” can only enter Denmark if they meet the shortest list of “worthy purposes”, which does not include business trips. 

Sweden

Americans can only enter if they’re covered by one of the exemptions (eg, close family reasons, a resident in Sweden, essential work).
 
They also need a negative test by law, and are recommended to isolate for 7 days. If they are fully vaccinated they are exempt from both test rules and the isolation recommendation, but even fully vaccinated people can only enter if they meet one of the categories for exemption from the travel ban.
 
So in other words Sweden hasn’t added US to their green/exempt list despite the the fact the EU has. But given Sweden normally follows EU recommendations for Covid travel lists, it may only be a matter of time before the travel between the US and Sweden opens up again.
 
The US Centre for Disease and Infection Control  (CDC) has classed Sweden as “Level 4 – Do not Travel”. According to the CDC level 4 “indicates a very high level of COVID-19 in the country.”
 
Sweden’s 14 day incidence rate is 131 cases per 100,000 people – lower in fact than Spain’s.

Austria

Austria ended its strict quarantine rules on May 19th after six months, which again allows arrivals from the Schengen area and a handful of other countries further afield (Australia, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macau, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia). 

While Americans were not initially part of the new relaxed rules, this was changed on July 1st. 

From July 1st, Austria is allowing Americans and people from a handful of countries outside the Schengen area to enter. 

In order to enter, Americans must either be vaccinated, have recovered from the coronavirus recently or test negative to the virus. 

While people are recommended to bring a negative test with them, if they do not have one they will be allowed to do a test in Austria (within the first 24 hours of arrival). 

READ MORE: Austria to allow Americans to enter from July

Switzerland

Fully vaccinated travellers from third countries — including from the United States —will be able to enter Switzerland at the end of June.

Federal Council announced on Friday, June 14th, that it would likely be lifting remaining travel restrictions on June 28th.

However, a spokesperson from the Federal Office of Public Health confirmed to The Local that the decision was made to bring the date forward to midnight on Friday, meaning that the new rules will be in effect on the 26th of June. 

This means not only that there would no longer be any testing or quarantine requirements for vaccinated arrivals for citizens of Schengen area states, but also for those coming from third nations, that is, countries outside the EU / EFTA.

“In view of the positive developments in the epidemiological situation and the progress made in the field of vaccination, the Federal Council is proposing to greatly relax the prescriptions and health measures at the border for people entering Switzerland”, authorities said.

READ MORE: Switzerland set to reopen its borders to vaccinated Americans and Brits

Norway

Travellers from the US cannot currently enter Norway unless they are citizens or residents of Norway, with a few exceptions, such as visiting children or stepchildren under 18 who live in Norway or visiting a spouse.

You can see the complete list of exceptions here.

Travellers from the US who meet the exceptions and travel to Norway will need to register their journey before their arrival. This can be done up to 72 hours before their arrival.

In addition to this, they will need to provide documentation of a Coronavirus test, either a rapid or PCR test, taken within 24 hours of entry.

They will then need to be tested once again at the border and then undergo a ten-day quarantine period.

At least three of the ten days will need to be spent in a quarantine hotel. Arrivals from the US will be released after returning a negative PCR test taken on day three. The quarantine hotel costs 500 kroner per day per adult and 250 kroner for children aged between 10-17. The testing is free. 

The remaining quarantine period can be spent at home or anywhere with a private bedroom and bathroom.

Fully vaccinated

For countries that differentiate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers there is a strict criteria in place on what constitutes ‘fully vaccinated’.

You must have received one of the vaccines approved for use by the European Medicines Agency; Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson (sometimes known as Janssen).

You must be two weeks after the second-dose for the double-dose vaccines or four weeks after the single-dose for Johnson & Johnson.

Transiting through Europe

With such differing entry requirements it may be tempting to think about travelling via another European country, however several countries have a 14-day rule in place. This states that you are considered as an arrival from the USA if you have been in the US for any time during the preceding 14 days, so if you are considering onward travel check carefully the rules of your destination country. 

Member comments

  1. This article needs to be updated. Since the end of last week travelers entering Italy from the USA (also from Canada and Japan) are no longer subject to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated or have a pre-flight negative test. The Covid-tested flights are redundant now. (Ministero della Salute, Ordinanza 18 giugno 2021)

  2. Agree with Joe’s comment. Italy updated their policies for travelers from US on 6/19 and again on 6/21. Please update info The Local staff and send accurate info to your subscribers. Thank you.

  3. Americans can enter Austria if they are residents of the EU. We are stationed in Germany and showed our EU visas and proof of vaccination and had no issues.

  4. Does anyone know what are the requirements for travel from the United States to Poland?

    Thank you

  5. Wheat is the rule if you’re traveling from Italy to Greece and back to Italy? Vaccination card used as a pass back into Italy?
    Thanks!

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TRAVEL NEWS

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

A number of countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors.

EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks as long as they can prove residency in an EU country however they will still be caught up in any delays at passport control if the new system as many fear, causes longer processing times.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 countries to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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