Can I travel to the United States?

·9-min read
 ( Pexels)
( Pexels)

The United States has long been a popular holiday destination for Brits. But there are currently severe restrictions on entry to the country for people travelling from Great Britain.

These are set to change from November 2021, following an announcement by the US that it would be welcoming back fully vaccinated foreign nationals who fly into the country that month.

If you’re hoping to visit the US before this easing of the rules takes place, here is the latest state of play, along with pointers on how to take out all-important travel cover for your journey.

Entry to the US prior to 8 November

UK travellers will not be allowed entry to the US unless they meet the requirements for exemption, which state that you must be:

  • an American citizen

  • a permanent resident of the US

  • a specified close family member of the above

  • in a limited category of visa holder (such as UN staff or diplomat).

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travellers arriving in the US should:

  • get a Covid test no more than 3 days before their departure

  • present a negative result or documentation of recovery from Covid-19 to their airline.

The UK’s proof of Covid-19 recovery and vaccination record are not currently accepted in the US.

Travellers who have been fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organisation (WHO), and travellers who are unvaccinated, should get tested for the virus 3 to 5 days after travel, with the latter self-quarantining for a full 7 days after arrival.

Travellers who have recovered from a documented COVID-19 infection within the last 3 months, should follow the rules for fully vaccinated travellers, except they do not need to get tested 3 to 5 days after travel unless they are symptomatic.

All travellers should follow state and local guidelines for the specific area of the US they are entering, which can be found on the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Currently masks must be worn on aircraft, trains, buses and at airports across the US.

What else do I need to travel to the US?

Those travelling to the US from other areas should have a visa, or in most cases will be eligible for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver, at a cost of $14.

Refer to the US State Department website to find out which you will need.

Contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the US for further information on rules of entry.

You can check that your travel documents meet the necessary requirements for travel to the US, with your airline or travel company.

Once in the US

While hotels are reopening they, and other public places such as shops, restaurants and bars, are following the rules and regulations of their local authorities, in relation to Covid-19.

Returning to the UK from the US

The following applies to travellers returning to London and other English locations from 4am on 4 October 2001 onwards. If you are returning to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, click on the relevant country link to check with each authority about any differences in requirements.

Prior to departure from the US

Travellers who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days must:

  • book and pay for a day two Covid-19 PCR test, to be taken after arrival in England

  • complete a passenger locator form, any time in the 48 hours before arrival in England

  • take a Covid-19 test on or before day two of arriving in England

There will be no need to take either a pre-departure test, or a Covid-19 test on day eight. There’s also no need to quarantine for 10 days after arrival in England.

From the end of October and to coincide with the return from half-term breaks, the government has said that eligible fully vaccinated travellers will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper, lateral flow test.

In-bound travellers must be able to prove that they have been fully vaccinated, either with an online or printed document produced by a national or state-level public health body.

Without the relevant paperwork, in-bound travellers will have to follow the rules as applied to non-vaccinated individuals (see below).

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated must:

  • take a pre-departure Covid-19 test – to be taken in the three days before travelling to England

  • book and pay for day two and day eight Covid-19 tests – to be taken after arrival in England

  • complete a passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before your arrival in England

After arriving in England, you must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days

  • take a Covid-19 test on or before day two, and on or after day eight

You may be able to shorten your isolation period and leave quarantine early by paying for a private Covid-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

Travelling with children

There are different age limits for children that need to take various Covid-19 tests:

  • test to enter another country – check foreign travel advice for the country concerned

  • test before travel back to England – children aged 10 and under do not need to take a test

  • day two tests after arrival in England – children aged four and under do not need to take a test

  • Test to Release test – children of all ages must take the test if adults in their household are taking part in the scheme

Travel to the United States from 8 November

From 8 November, fully vaccinated individuals will be able to travel to the US.

In addition to proving their vaccination status, they will need to have evidence of a negative test taken in the 72 hours prior to departure, and they will be required to provide contact details in case they need to be traced while in the country.

Tough rules on mask-wearing will be enforced during flights.

Exemptions may be made to allow unvaccinated children to enter the US with their families.

Taking out travel insurance for the US

Travelling to the US requires a specific type of travel insurance policy with a sufficiently high level of cover to act as a financial safety net if a problem were to arise. Emergency medical costs alone can easily stack up to tens of thousands of dollars in the US so, while travel insurance is not a legal requirement, such protection can be extremely useful.

Here’s what to look out for when choosing travel insurance for the US:

What is travel insurance for the US?

When choosing a policy, look out for worldwide cover that includes the US, Canada and the Caribbean.

Then, decide what type of policy you need. Options include a single trip policy for a one-off holiday, or an annual policy which will cover you for multiple trips to various destinations within the space of 12 months.

Alternatively, you can choose backpacker insurance for a longer period of travel to numerous destinations, including the US.

What’s covered under travel insurance for the US?

Typically, travel insurance policies will cover you for the following as standard:

  • Medical expenses for treatment, medical bills and repatriation costs should you fall ill or get injured while you’re away

  • Cancellation costs if an emergency means you are forced to cancel your holiday

  • Lost or stolen possessions in the event that your personal belongings, baggage or money are damaged, lost or stolen

  • Disruption and delays to cover the costs of cancelled flights

  • Personal liability for compensation claims made against you for damaging someone else’s property or causing injury or death.

Types and levels of cover vary depending on policy. If your policy does not include all of the above, your insurer may be able to add the cover you need, potentially at an additional cost.

Remember to check your policy details for limitations and exclusions, such as a cap on the number of items for which you can make a lost and stolen possessions claim.

What else is there to consider when travelling to the US?

Depending on your insurer, you will also be able to add various other types of extra cover to your policy. This ranges from cover for risks related to extreme sports and activities to end supplier failure or scheduled airline failure cover, in case your holiday company or airline goes bust.

But remember as always, your insurer will expect you to ask your holiday provider or airline for compensation before making a claim. It’s only if your request is rejected that you should claim on your insurance.

Package holidays may be certified ATOL- or ABTA-protected, which means you’d be provided with financial compensation if something were to go wrong.

When will I not be covered if travelling to the US?

While non-essential travel to the US is currently permitted by the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), it’s best to check the status of your destination as close to your departure as possible, as the FCDO regularly updates its advice.

Going to a destination where the FCDO advises against ‘all but essential’ travel can invalidate your policy.

Very few insurers will protect you if you travel against the FCDO’s advice. These include CoverForYou, Cedar Tree and Outbacker.

What is an excess?

You will need to make a set payment towards any claim you make - usually £50 or £100. This is called the excess or deductible.

Some policies charge a single excess for each claim, while others charge the excess for each person listed on the policy, which is potentially more expensive. However, a higher excess may result in lower premiums.

Some policies offer an ‘excess waiver’ option, where you pay a single amount to remove the imposition of any excess if a claim is made.

What about Covid-19?

It is now common practice for insurers to cover at least medical expenses and repatriation costs for Covid-19-related risks, in the event you fall ill with the virus while on holiday and need to return to the UK early.

Cover often extends to cancellation due to Covid-19-related risks too, should, for example, you or a member of your party contract the virus before your departure date and need to quarantine.

As with non Covid-related risks, accepted reasons for claims vary between insurers, so make sure to check these when purchasing your cover.

Finding the right travel insurance policy for the US

Use a travel insurance comparison tool such as ours to easily compare policies catered to your trip to the US.

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