During an address from the Oval Office last night, President Trump talked about “our nation’s unprecedented response to the coronavirus outbreak.” As part of this, he announced a drastic new travel ban for those traveling from Europe to the US.
At first the details were quite limited, but we now have more of a sense of what the restrictions are, so I’ll go through them below. To go along with this, the Department of State has also issued an advisory warning Americans against travel abroad.
If you’d like to see Trump’s address, you can do so here:
30 day travel ban for foreigners who have visited Europe
With Trump’s new Presidential Proclamation, the US has banned entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their first scheduled arrival to the United States.
This isn’t that different than the proclamation that was issued on January 31, 2020, banning foreign nationals who had been to China in the past 14 days. Except this time it’s for Europe. As of now there is no ban on domestic travel.
Here’s what you need to know:
Why does the ban only apply to European countries?
As Trump explains it, this is being done because the US took “early and intense action” to stop the spread of coronavirus, which has caused dramatically fewer cases than are now present in Europe. Because the European Union failed to take the same precautions to restrict travel from China and other “hotspots,” Trump is introducing this policy.
He points out that the Schengen area has the highest number of cases of coronavirus outside of China. As of March 11, 2020, the number of cases in the Schengen area was 17,442, with 711 deaths.
When does the travel ban take effect?
The travel ban applies as of 11:59PM ET on Friday, March 13, 2020. It doesn’t apply to anyone onboard a scheduled flight that departs prior to that time. It will be valid for 30 days, though restrictions will be “adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.”
Which countries are impacted by the European travel ban?
The ban applies to foreign nationals who have been to Schengen area countries in the past 14 days, including any of the following:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
As you can see, some countries, including the United Kingdom, aren’t subjected to this rule.
Let me emphasize that for foreign nationals, this is all about where you’ve been, rather than what passport you hold. In other words, someone with a German passport who hasn’t been in the Schengen area in the past 14 days could enter the US, while someone with a South African passport who has been in the Schengen area in the past 14 days couldn’t enter the US.
What about US citizens?
This policy doesn’t apply to legal permanent residents of the US, immediate family members of US citizens (parents, children, spouses, etc.), and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.
Those who are allowed to travel to the US will be subjected to additional screening, though we don’t yet know what this will look like.
How does the Europe ban impact travelers?
This ban obviously has huge implications for airlines, hotels, etc., and they haven’t yet fully responded to the situation. Let me share below what we know so far, and note that I’ll update this post as we learn more.
What does this policy mean for airlines?
Airlines still seem to be trying to figure out what to do with this policy. In theory there’s nothing banning flights from anywhere in Europe to anywhere in the US, but rather the restriction is just on who could travel on these flights.
What we don’t know yet is if flights from the Schengen area to the US will be completely canceled over the next several weeks, or if they’ll just operate a very limited number of flights, due to the restrictions on who can take them.
At absolute best I would expect a massive reduction in flights between the Schengen area and the US, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them canceled completely.
As of the time of this post I continue to see airlines selling flights from the Schengen area to the US beyond Friday, so I’ll be sure to update this post if that changes.
How can the US tell if you’ve been to the Schengen area in the past 14 days?
A lot have wondered if you could fly from the Schengen area to the US via London, for example, since the UK is excluded.
For foreigners this ban isn’t based on your nationality, but rather based on whether you’ve been to the Schengen area in the past 14 days.
For example, if you have dual citizenship (both non-US), could you use one passport to enter the Schengen area, and a different passport to enter the US, so it looks like you haven’t been to the Schengen area?
Obviously that would be prohibited, and I imagine the US has quite a bit of info on people in the background. It’s not something I’d risk or expect to work, personally, though I do wonder how easily they’ll be able to enforce it.
Can you cancel a hotel in the US because of the new travel ban?
Most hotel companies have been issuing travel waivers for regions heavily impacted by the current situation. I would expect that most global hotel groups will waive cancelation policies for those who can’t visit the US as a result of these new restrictions. However, as of now it doesn’t look like policies have been updated.
Can Americans still travel to Europe?
There’s nothing restricting Americans from visiting Europe during this travel ban. You can expect you’ll be subjected to additional screening for your return journey, but this ban is exclusively for foreign nationals.
Personally I wouldn’t be concerned about the policy extending to US nationals. Trump had a similar policy for China, and that didn’t apply to Americans. If it didn’t apply for travel to China, I can’t imagine it will apply for travel to Europe.
For the next 30 days, foreign nationals who have been to the Schengen area of Europe in the past 14 days will be banned from entering the US, with few exceptions.
These really are unprecedented times, and it will be interesting to see how airlines react. As of now I don’t see any huge flight cancelations, though I guess we’ll find out soon if all flights between the Schengen area and US are canceled, or how this is handled.