Due to the Covid-19 outbreak growing exponentially in Europe, the EU closed its external borders and implemented a travel ban in March. After months of lockdown, the EU and other European nations began opening their borders and welcoming nonessential travellers starting the first of July. Those allowed for entry came from a select list of countries in which the EU Council determined the Covid-19 pandemic was sufficiently under control. As widely expected, the United States, where the coronavirus is currently resurging, remains on the travel ban list. Here’s why.
Why Is There a EU Travel Ban on Americans?
The United States travel ban is based on recommendations from the EU Council to member states, which sets criteria for countries to meet before they are allowed entry. One of the requirements is that countries must have coronavirus infection rates equal to or better than the EU. The United States is much higher.
The United States currently has the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths caused by Covid-19 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
Although the EU has 116 million more people than the U.S, it has a lower estimated 1.8 million coronavirus of reported cases. As the worst-affected country worldwide by COVID-19, with more than 4.7 million cases and 155,000 deaths, it’s unlikely that the EU will reopen their borders to non-essential American travellers anytime soon.
Who Decides Who Can Enter the EU?
The EU Council, made up of each member state, is responsible for determining what countries can enter the EU. A qualified majority requires 15 of 27 member states to vote in favor of either allowing countries into the EU or imposing a travel ban.
When the EU Council debated the travel ban list in late June, the U.S. was breaking a record for daily new cases, a reported 39,972 new cases at the end of June. The EU Council allowed other countries to enter the EU if they met requirements and showed they were able to bring the coronavirus under control.
How Often Is the EU Travel Ban List Reviewed?
The EU Council reviews the EU travel ban list every two weeks. In addition to looking at the number of new cases over the past 14 days, the Council checks that the country’s case rate per 100,000 inhabitants is close to or below the EU average.
A country may be removed from the reentry list if its epidemiological situation begins to decline. For now, the U.S. is excluded along with other countries that are having difficulty containing the coronavirus, such as Russia and Brazil.
What Are the Criteria to Enter the EU?
The criteria for removing the EU travel ban are based on health-related risk factors and containment measures, according to the European Commission. Criteria include:
- The number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100,000 inhabitants close to or below the EU average
- A stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period compared to the previous 14 days
- The overall response to COVID-19, considering available information, such as aspects of testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment, and reporting.
The U.S. did not meet the criteria to be removed from the travel ban list based on the number of cases exceeding the EU average, new cases, containment issues, and overall response to COVID-19 at that time.
What Are the Approved Countries That Can Enter the EU?
Based on the criteria established by the EU Council, members of the EU and non-EU European nations of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein can open their borders to residents of the following countries:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- China (subject to confirmation of reciprocity)
China is on the list but “subject to confirmation of reciprocity,” meaning that only if China responds by opening its borders to European travellers will they be taken off the travel ban list.
It’s the responsibility of each EU member state to decide how to implement the list; however, the EU Council says that no member state should lift a travel ban on a “non-listed” country. Residents of the United States, where the spread of Covid-19 has not been controlled, are not allowed to enter the EU unless they qualify for an exception.
What Are the Exceptions to Allow Americans to Enter the EU?
One of the recommendations of the EU Council is that the borders should open to those who live in these countries on the list, so not exclusive to nationals. Which means, it is possible for Americans who legally reside in one of these countries to enter the EU or Schengen Area.
What About Americans Travelling to Europe for Essential Purposes?
Beyond the countries removed from the travel ban list, restrictions should not apply to people with an essential function or need, according to the EU Council. This list includes Americans who fall into one of these categories:
- Healthcare professionals
- Frontier workers
- Seasonal workers in agriculture
- Transport personnel
- The staff of international organisations
- Military personnel, humanitarian aid workers, and civil protection personnel
- Transiting passengers
- Passengers travelling for family reasons
- Those in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons
- Those travelling for the purpose of studying
- Highly qualified third-country employees given that their employment is necessary from an economic perspective and the work cannot be postponed or performed abroad
All travellers, including Americans, who believe that they belong under one of these categories must contact the authorities in the EU member state where they want to travel and ask for information about how to be removed from a travel ban list.
Travelling During Restrictions to the EU
EU travel bans are always changing and determined on a case-by-case basis based on the recommendations of the EU Commission every two weeks. To ensure your safety and understand your rights while travelling, it’s important to stay abreast of the current travel ban list and restrictions to know how they may affect your travel plans.
During the COVID-19 crisis, TravelRefund is committed to helping you receive travel compensation if your flight has been delayed, cancelled, or overbooked for circumstances beyond your control. Though COVID-19 cancelled flights are not eligible for compensation, you still have rights under European Passenger Rights Regulation (EU 261).
Understanding your passenger rights is an important way to ensure you are compensated fairly. If you’re curious if you are eligible for a refund or want to learn more about your travel rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact us today. We’re here to help you with compensation during these unprecedented times.