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traveling to the United States during a pandemic


With the global Covid-19 epidemic receding all over the world… can we finally allow ourselves a getaway to the United States? What about ESTA? The point in this article.


Written by LaureM [Contenu sponsorisé] Friday, July 2, 2021


Covid-19: what impact on travel to the United States and ESTA USA?

Adobe Stock © Samuel
Adobe Stock © Samuel

Adobe Stock © Samuel




The health crisis we are going through has had particularly serious consequences for the travel industry.

Between confinement, restrictions and closure of airspace, many tourism professionals and travelers have found themselves in at least unprecedented situations. This is particularly the case for aficionados of tourist or business getaways in the United States for which, as you probably know, an authorization ESTA is required (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).

What are the consequences and implications of Covid-19 on ESTA USA? We tell you everything!


ESTA: what are we talking about?

ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization, designates the electronic travel authorization, essential to travel to the United States for French people and other nationals of countries concerned by the Visa Waiver Program. The electronic travel authorization system applied by the United States echoes other similar initiatives, in particular the visa eVisitor for Australia or theAVE for Canada. This is a security measure that allows the US government to control entry into its territory, reserving the right to refuse travelers deemed undesirable before boarding, without impacting tourist revenue through a system of discouraging visa for travellers. ESTA USA was set up by the ” Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Department of Homeland Security), replacing the green form I-94W following the attacks of September 11, 2001 to strengthen security at the country’s borders.

For the French traveler, the ESTA represents an undeniable advantage since it exempts him from a visa. The procedure for obtaining ESTA is also faster, simpler and can be done directly online on sites such as France ESTA. While a visa application necessarily requires an appointment to be made and a trip to the Paris consulate, applying for an ESTA to travel to the United States is done by simple completion of an online form. Even better: you can obtain your electronic travel authorization within an hour… or even within 5 minutes of submitting your dossier. The purpose of the form in question is to enable the services of theU.S. Customs and Border Protection (customs and border protection) to have as much information as possible about the traveler and his travel intentions.


Covid-19 in the United States: state of play

The United States is compiling the records: the world’s leading military power, the planet’s leading economy… and the country with the most cases of coronavirus in the world. At the end of May 2021, the country had nearly 34 million reported casesand laments over 600,000 deaths due to the coronavirus. In the meantime, we note a lifting of restrictions on New York and in California, thanks to advances in the vaccination campaign. In California, for example, almost all restrictions have been lifted. Vaccinated people are no longer required to wear a mask in the majority of public places. Exit also the limitation of the capacity of restaurants and other similar establishments.


Can I still apply for an ESTA for the United States?

In other words, does the United States accept new ESTA applications? The answer is yes. Despite the particular context of the health crisis, it is still possible to file an ESTA application. You should also know that there is no change to be expected in terms of application processing times. As you will have understood, it is still possible to travel to the United States with your ESTA, despite the Covid-19 crisis. If you have already submitted an application, you probably know that the ESTA travel authorization is valid for one 2 year term. This remains unchanged despite the health crisis.

That said, having an ESTA travel authorization and a valid passport is not synonymous with systematic entry into the United States. Nothing new, you will tell us… ESTA has never granted its regulator the immutable right to set foot on American soil. What is new is that the American authorities now reserve the right to turn back travelers who have recently visited a ” outbreak covid-19 “. No list has been communicated, but it would seem that India and Brazil are concerned.


ESTA and prohibition of entry into the territory

As we told you, the American authorities can refuse you entry into their territory if you have stayed or transited through a country where the health crisis is raging. Even if you have a valid ESTA, the authorities of the country can invoke the risk of spreading the coronavirus to not let you enter temporarily. Bad news : France is concerned. Indeed, with Belgium and 14 other countries, France is one of the countries subject to restrictions. This means that any traveler from one of these countries (for stay or transit, within 14 days prior to departure for the United States) may be denied entry into U.S. territory or imposed a period of self-isolation.


Compulsory PCR test for the French

The presentation of a negative PCR test is mandatory to be able to check in on a flight to the United States. In force since January 26, 2021, this measure applies to all travelers over the age of 2 and authorized, on an exceptional basis, to enter the United States. In detail, travelers are required to carry out the test within 3 days preceding their trip to the country of Uncle Sam. In addition, anyone who has been infected with Covid-19 in the 90 days who precedes his departure to the United States must present proof of infection, and another issued by a health authority confirming that the person can travel again. Beyond the PCR test, the American authorities advise people arriving on their territory by plane to quarantine themselves during 7 daysat home, in addition to performing another PCR test within 3 to 5 days after their arrival. This recommendation becomes an obligation in some states such as New York, especially for travelers from the United Kingdom.


Is it possible to travel to the United States from France?

To date, the American authorities have not yet communicated on the subject. This means that it is too early to know if the French will be able to go to the United States for vacation or a business trip with an ESTA.


Soon the resumption of tourism in New York?

Although the opening of the borders has not yet been announced, international tourism is expected to resume in New York. Indeed, the city has just launched a campaign with a budget of $30 million to encourage international travelers to head to New York after months and months of a travel ban. We told you, like California, New York has lifted several restrictions, including the wearing of masks for vaccinated people and the limitation of restaurant capacity. That said, action by New York State remains dependent on the federal government. The latter will indeed have to lift the restrictions for tourists in the coming weeks. In the meantime, several questions remain unanswered, in particular on the conditions of entry into the American territory: will a PCR test, a vaccine passport or a health pass be required? Will quarantine be mandatory? US authorities have yet to comment on the matter..


Who can currently travel to the United States?

At present, the United States continues to apply entry restrictions to its territory for foreign travelers and non-residents in the country, known as ” Travel ban “. This restriction was supposed to be lifted at the end of May, but it still seems to be in force. Remember that the Travel ban applies to both leisure tourists and business travelers, but also to European expatriates authorized to work in America under cover of a visa.

Who can go to the United States today? These are primarily U.S. nationals and permanent residents (Green Card holders). That said, some exceptions may apply to business travellers, students, journalists and diplomats. As you will therefore have understood, a tourist stay is, at the present time, still irrelevant for French nationals. Remember that people authorized to travel to the United States must present a negative PCR test carried out less than 72 hours before boarding, in addition to a sworn statement confirming the absence of symptoms of Covid-19.

However, there is a very small glimmer of hope for this summer, especially in New York which, we told you, would like to welcome international tourists again. But nothing is official yet, the US government is still silent on the subject. Across the Atlantic, Americans have a much better chance of entering European territory this summer,EU having relaxed the conditions of access to the 27 countries of the Schengen areaprovided they are vaccinated.

For their part, in an effort of reciprocity, the American authorities no longer advise Americans against traveling to France and more generally to Europe. To be continued!

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