For over a year now, the US borders have been closed to UK travellers. Since 17 March 2020, only green card holders and holders of specialist, diplomatic visas have been allowed to travel to the US from the UK. Needless to say, this had a huge impact on the travel industry on both sides of the Atlantic: 4.78 million Brits travelled to the US in 2019, while a record 3.5 million American tourists travelled here that year.
But as coronavirus cases fall and vaccination programmes accelerate in both countries, many experts – and hopeful holidaymakers – are predicting that the tide could finally turn later this summer.
Note: this article was last updated 6 September 2021 and was correct at time of writing. For the most up to date information, check our travel restrictions page which is updated three times weekly.
Latest UK-US travel news
The UK has opened its borders to quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated US citizens, but the US has not yet signalled any change to the travel ban on visitors from the UK.
Some international travel from the UK began to resume on 17 May, according to a traffic light system that adds green and amber travel categories to the current red list. The US is currently ranked amber.
The system sees ‘green’ countries open to UK residents and nationals without them needing to quarantine on arrival. The government has categorised future green listed places as ‘countries where we judge the risk to be lower, based for instance on vaccinations, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern, and their genomic sequencing capacity (or access to genomic sequencing)’.
A mandatory, 10-day hotel quarantine still applies to ‘red’ countries, whereas ‘amber’ countries are recommended for essential travel only, with mandatory pre-departure and on-arrival COVID testing and a 10-day quarantine period on arrival back in the UK (unless you are fully vaccinated, which eliminates quarantine requirements).
Can I travel to the US this year?
Many travel experts are hoping so. Thanks to its rapidly progressing vaccination programme, it’s possible that the US could be added to the UK’s green list in the coming weeks or months. The US is currently on the UK’s amber list, but the green list will be reviewed every three weeks. It was most recently updated on 24 June for changes which came into place on 30 June.
On 2 April the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also relaxed restrictions for vaccinated travellers entering and departing from the US, which bodes well for vaccinated UK travellers if the UK decides to follow suit.
Can I travel to the US now?
You can only travel to the US right now if you are a permanent US resident or hold a special, limited kind of visa (e.g. for UN staff and diplomats). Since March 2020, British nationals are not allowed to enter (or transit through) the US if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Brazil, China, India, Iran or South Africa in the previous 14 days, as a travel ban is also in place for these destinations.
What are the entry requirements for travel to the US?
If you are eligible to travel to the US, all travellers (aged two and over) must provide a negative, pre-departure COVID test result (antigen or PCR), taken within 72 hours of arrival. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also requires all arrivals to take a COVID-19 test (NAAT or antigen) three to five days after arrival, and unvaccinated arrivals should then quarantine for seven days. The US has not yet confirmed whether it will accept the UK solutions for demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status. Full details on the US entry policies and recommendations can be read on the US CDC website.
Whether or not you’ve been vaccinated, the CDC still recommends that you wear a mask over your nose and mouth at all times throughout your travel journey – which is required on planes, buses, trains, airports and stations. You should also stay two metres away from others and wash your hands often or use hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol.
Can I travel within the US?
Flights are running, but travel restrictions depend on where you are and where you want to go. State, local and territorial governments have different rules in place, including travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders and testing and quarantine requirements. You can use this search engine to check the local COVID-related requirements in whichever city or zip code that you’re planning travel to.
If you do travel domestically within the US, the CDC recommends that you take a COVID-19 test one to three days before your trip, and three to five days after you travel. It also recommends that you self-isolate for seven days after any domestic travel and avoid any contact with anyone at increased risk from COVID-19. It should go without saying that you must not travel if you test positive, are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or were recently exposed to someone with the virus.
Is the US in lockdown?
While restrictions in the US are easing, the country is a patchwork of different COVID-related restrictions on social distancing, which sometimes differ by state, county and even city. Wherever you are planning to go to, you should check the latest state, county or city advice and restrictions well in advance, and keep an eye on developments.
Travel to the US FAQs
The US has been on the amber list since 17 May, but travel experts are hopeful that it will be upgraded to green later on in the summer, thanks to the rapid vaccination programme currently being rolled out in the US.
Not if you are fully vaccinated, although all passengers must take a COVID-19 test three to five days after they arrive. If you are not fully vaccinated, the CDC requires that you self-isolate for seven days after arriving in the US.
Yes, you need to show proof of a negative, pre-departure PCR or antigen test on arrival in the US, taken less than 72 hours before arrival.
That varies between states, counties and even cities. If you are eligible to travel to the US right now, check the local advice and restrictions before heading off.
Where can I go?
Making plans to get back out there? Find out which borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.
Want to read more?
- Coronavirus travel advice: our regularly updated advice page
- 10 dream holiday destinations for a post-pandemic break, from Mexico to the Maldives
- 7 destinations for planning a trip a year in advance: Australia, India and the USA, here we come
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