White House Considering Lifting Europe Travel Ban

Filed Under: Travel

Several months ago the US banned travelers from dozens of countries. It now looks like that policy may finally be undone, which is long overdue.

US considers lifting travel bans

Reuters reports that the Trump administration is considering ending the travel bans currently in place for non-US citizens in many European countries and Brazil. There’s also a travel ban against non-US citizens in China and Iran, but lifting those bans is not currently under consideration.

Apparently this plan has been backed by the White House coronavirus task force, public health officials, and other federal agencies. However, President Trump hasn’t yet made a final decision, and the timing remains to be seen.

This information is according to five US government and airline officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

For context:

The US has banned those coming from the UK

This policy change is long overdue

It’s long overdue that this travel ban is overturned. When the ban was introduced, President Trump justified it by suggesting that the US took “early and intense” action to stop the spread of coronavirus. The US needed to be protected from “hotspots,” and therefore it apparently made sense to close borders.

This policy ended up staying in place even over the summer, when coronavirus was very much under control in much of Europe. There’s not much logic to closing borders to countries that have a significantly lower average rate of infection than the US.

Those coming from Europe may soon be able to travel to the US

Does this mean Americans could travel to Europe again?

Unfortunately not. There are a few different policies at play here:

Even if the US lifts its Europe travel ban, don’t expect that it will immediately be reciprocal, and that Americans will be able to travel to much of Europe:

Don’t expect that Americans will be able to travel to Europe soon

Bottom line

The White House may finally reverse the Brazil and Europe travel bans, which have been in place since earlier this year. This is most definitely a step in the right direction.

We can debate whether there’s merit to these bans when an infection rate is substantially higher elsewhere, but there’s really not much incremental risk in the US, when we have nearly 13 million confirmed cases and 260K deaths.

What do you think — will the White House reverse the current travel bans in the coming weeks?

  1. Shame on the current administration for this mess. Of course China has quasi-zero COVID but they’re not following science. The sooner these bums are out the better for the nation and the economy.

  2. I’ll preface this with a tinge of selfishness.

    Our family is booked LAX to PPT in April on AF. I hope this ban is lifted so AF can return the PPT stopover to LAX from YVR. I don’t expect to go to Europe soon, but the return of the AF flight to LAX will be most welcome.

  3. Well there are countries in Europe where the situation is worse. But as the virus is now in the whole world anyway, travel bans make somehow no sense any more…

  4. @Lucky.
    Does that mean foreign visitors who been to Europe in past 14 days will be allowed to enter USA again? Right now, if you are a foreigner, you are not allowed to enter US if you visit Europe in past 14 days, even if it just a transit.

  5. I am very uneasy about American tourists being able to visit Europe again, especially as infections are continuing to increase. You can take all the precautions you want with quarantining, but at the end of the day you will still be interacting with airport staff, airline crew, taxi drivers and people working in shops. There will be a time when we can all travel again, but it isn’t now. Americans should stay away until this is under control.

  6. “there’s really not much incremental risk in the US, when we have nearly 13 million confirmed cases and 260K deaths.”

    Even one additional death is one too many. We need to keep the ban to save lives. We can let people travel again once Joe has destroyed the virus.

  7. I am interested in the comment about “the EU policy”. Is there an EU policy on border entry right now? There are recommendations for coordination and those and implemented nationally.

    Here are the principles of that cooperation. Reciprocity IS one of them. So it is untrue to say “it’s not spite”. You might not call it that, but nor is it quantitative criteria.


  8. Hell no! If it’s not reciprocal makes no sense. Also Biden will probably close it right back up. There should be no travel bans, but as long as it has been done on one side it should be tit for tat. Now, I’m all for it being reciprocal for the european countries who actually handled tourism properly by not excluding U.S. (Ie Croatia), but a blanket opening is not the fair or safe way to go about it.

  9. I don’t get it. What is the point of opening the border for Europe. EU said US was too dangerous, so they banned people from US. The point is to prevent cross border travel, by lifting the ban, only one side decided to enforce it. What???

  10. @ Ben — Another move to sabotage the incoming administration. Trump has no low point. I am hoping he defects to Russia on Jan 20, never to return.

  11. It has little interest if it’s not reciprocal indeed. But the approach of banning countries that are over a certain threshold of infections is sensible on the EU part. I’m a US resident but EU citizen, and seeing how people are behaving here in the US with their beloved “freedom” (aka individualism over the greater good), it’s really best to keep things contained here and prevent the spreading. Hopefully the next administration will yield better results so everyone can travel again soon and safely and wherever they want.

  12. The first thing Biden should do is to ask Justin to end Canada’s ban on Americans. The second thing Biden should do is bomb Canada’s White House when Justin refuses. That building is currently empty because Canada let it rot and now is being fixed. Then 3rd thing is to ban Canadians.

    Stop this US Canadian border madness. 14 day quarantine, testing, or something, but not ban. Even ban tourism but allow important travel. Now even essential travel is banned except for a narrowly defined definition of what is essential.

  13. As a matter of principle and human decency and basic intelligence, almost every executive order that emanated from the disgusting, racketeering ring that is the Trump Administration should be undone. The issue with travel is that while the bans can and probably should be lifted, travel is still not advised, particularly this winter and the US and Europe remain hotspots of infection.

  14. Biden should follow the science and re-institute travel bans if infectious disease experts believe it is appropriate. Keyboard healthcare providers are no longer desired here. Trump is clearly doing things to cement some semblance of a legacy and undermine the Biden administration. If the Congress was smart they’d remove him in the lame-duck to head off potentially destructive things he might do.

  15. Everything that happens from here on out will be a political decision rather than anything to do with the data. Its in Trumps interest to screw up Biden so that when he runs in 2024 he can claim everything was great until he left office – borders open, vaccines on the way, stocks rebounding.
    Dreadful situation all round.
    Even if you can go to Europe, it will likely be a crappy experience at least until vaccines are widely available. Reports last year from countries that were allowing Americans visit included refusal to serve in restaurants, everything closed, disapproving comments from locals who were still in lockdown etc.

  16. @Clem Hate to tell you, but their isn’t much difference in the behavior between EU and American citizens confronting Covid 19

  17. @tom, refused service? what countries are you talking about? Everyone I met this summer in northern Europe was very friendly. And the restaurants we went to were happy to have the business.

  18. well, this travel ban never made any sense, since the US has been the no. 1 coronavirus hotspot since late March. why would we ban anyone from European countries where the infection rate is lower? Sure, somebody who is sick might come over — but they are less likely to be sick than our own citizens. It’s madness!!
    The EU on the other hand, should not allow Americans in, while the infection rate in the US is higher. Because Americans, were they to travel to Europe right now, might spread the disease.

    Ultimately, all the bans could be removed and replaced with very strict quarantine & testing regimens.

    The ban for Chinese travelers is still in effect — this one never made any sense whatsoever sinec the disease is eradicated in China. It’s just some kind of xenophobic signaling, and truly shameful. It goes without saying that travel should be unrestricted from a country like China, just like from New Zealand — if there are no cases there, the situation is clearcut.

  19. As a citizen of EU country I have nothing against allowing Americans to visit EU, as long as there is reciprocity. Likewise it should be done with NZ, Australia, South Korea, etc. – you want to come here, then let us to your countries (even with test+quarantine, it’s fine as long as we have a possibility of travelling like your citizens do).

    At this stage it makes no difference to keep borders closed, virus is out, it’s widely prevalent in the society and we have to live with it, while allowing risk groups to self-isolate and assisting them until “super-spreaders” , i.e. most active 10-20% of society get immune.
    Now it should be all about minimizing collateral damage – so every business should be able to be open, heathcare should work as usual, etc.

  20. An interesting move given that Trump could have temporarily lifted it in the summer when cases were so low in the EU, allowing them to travel here and giving a slight boost to the airline industry. As things got bad again in the EU this fall he could have reimposed it ad hoc. Instead, he ignored the opportunities as they arose and cost airlines and the travel industry.

    Why lift it now? Europe is locked down for the most part, and experiencing its second wave. You think the rationale would be to just hang on for the few more weeks until the next administration so as to review the first round of vaccines and how it’s impacting the numbers. If cases are precipitously dropping, then lift it. We came this far, might as well ride it out for the short time left until the vaccines start having effect.

  21. I imagine Biden will change it either way. Not necessarily allowing everyone back in immediately, but using a numbers-based approach (e.g. over the Summer Europeans, by the numbers, should have been allowed to enter the USA).

    As someone on a visa who can’t re-enter the USA I’d welcome this change.

  22. I’m not sure this is a good move if only for the reason that our hospitals are currently at capacity in many places and the influx of foreigners who could potentially become casualties of the virus and end up in our hospitals could cause huge issues. Our medical professionals are already stressed to the limit, why make it worse for them? The vaccines are coming and we just have to hold out a few more months.

  23. People seem to forget, the US banned EU first. Then the EU put their travel ban in place. For months now, airlines in the EU have requested govts on both sides to open up travel. So a move like this, would be reciprocated and I believe very quickly too. Fact of the matter is, treatments have become more available, have been better, and vaccines are almost here. Many studies show that with proper testing prior to travel and even after arrival, the chances of spreading this are almost non-existent. People are able to think about the facts, and decide for themselves. It doesn’t matter who is President, this was eventually going to happen because the risk is very low and doesn’t make sense anymore. The last 9 months now we have learned a lot, many have missed family and travel from overseas. We all are responsible enough to make informed decisions, there is a risk to everything…everything in life. Let’s think positive and appreciate a good step in the right direction.

  24. Someone asked upthread whether there was a common policy in the EU regarding admitting foreigners. The answer is no – each country has individual policies. Some ban anyone from outside the EU/U.K./Schengen area unless they’re citizens or residents, others look at infection rates, while yet others have open borders with or without testing & quarantine. Also, “acceptable” infection rates and how they are calculated differs.

    The EU is pushing for a harmonised system, but so far new luck. My own country, Norway, requires no more than 20 cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks to avoid quarantine, whereas I believe Finland has 25 or 30. Sweden, as far as I know, have no such requirements at all (I’m happy to be corrected). Norway also does not let in non-EU/schengen & U.K unless you’re immediate family or resident in these. Boyfriends/girlfriends are allowed in, but you need to prove the relationship.

  25. In the UK we have travel corridors which is made up of two lists of countries. One list you can visit but have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to the UK.
    The other list you can visit and there are no restrictions upon return to the UK.
    If the country you wish to visit is not on either list then our government is advising against travel to those countries (That’s where the USA are now). If you go against the advice and travel to those countries then your insurance is invalid. Normal people from the UK are not going to travel to the US with no insurance and risk having to deal with your crazy healthcare system in the middle of a pandemic.
    If the USA opens up America to Europe are you going to see an influx of visitors from Europe, no you will not. The travel advice for Europe will remain as don’t go to America.

  26. It doesn’t make sense to open borders for another hot spot like Europe. They are not a success story compared to Africa or Asia. If anything, the media likes to believe that Europeans are more better in handling the pandemic, but that really is not the case.

  27. Many European countries have 14 day positive rates higher than the US – some are significantly higher, in fact. Cumulative deaths per million are higher in six European countries than the US – and a few others aren’t much lower. Another six European countries have higher cumulative cases per million than the US, with more just a bit lower. The US is ahead of many European countries in tests per million. So as a whole, Europe certainly has no room to cast aspersions on the US or anyone else when it comes to COVID-19.

    But I think once the virus has become well established in both Europe and the US, travel bans either way are pointless theater. I believe the chances of near-term reciprocity are pretty good, at least with some European countries.

  28. Being allowed to enter the US is all very well but there is no point in travelling if you then end up not being able to do anytning because a state / city is under lockdown

  29. Really? The EU? Not Asia, who is doing the best out of everyone? It seems American just gets more stupid. Well they got that in common with Europe…

  30. “I do think it’s a step in the right direction in order to have a dialogue about how best to reopen borders safely” I don’t see any dialogue here. I just see them opening the borders to other countries that are also overrun with COVID without any discussion about long term safety and viability.

  31. Biden will do what he’s told once in office. He’ll shut everything back down and nationalize a mask mandate if instructed to or drop everything and tell everyone go back to normal. Only travel bubble allowed will be Ukraine, Hunter has some unfinished business there.

  32. I hope this will come true soon. There’s no evidence that travel bans have helped to reduce the level of infections. It’s rather the behaviour at the destination that matters.

  33. @UA-NYC

    They just suspended electoral certification in Pennsylvania so Biden hasn’t won anything yet. A 2nd term under President Trump would result in borders reopening in record time.

  34. @D3kingg – affects down-ballot races only. Irrelevant for President. Quite a sad & pathetic effort by the GOP. But par for the course these days.

    Turn into Newsmax/OAN though and Trump is cruising to a 2nd term. LOLOL.

  35. Gotta have a laugh! No-one in their right mind should even contemplate visiting mainland USA for the next year or so. This new decree from a president being directed towards the exit is meaningless.

  36. @Andre wrote “Biden should follow the science and re-institute travel bans if infectious disease experts believe it is appropriate. ”

    Science and politics are not the same. Science would say a complete lockdown. Not even going to the supermarket unless there is actual starvation. If there is a complete lockdown, Covid-19 would end before December 31. If there’s a dozen cases here and there, those can be contact traced. Contact tracing cannot be done when there are 10,000 cases.

    Also lots of testing is not a complete solution. Look at Trump. His staff was tested every day. All negative tests until BAM, Trump was sick and then everyone tested positive. Testing shows up kind of late.

  37. Folks considering travel now, as well as those considering international travel and returning to the USA will, hopefully, continue to work as many of us continually do to contain anything they’ve picked up enroute. This current virus is not yet understood. Perhaps eager naïveté might concede to practiced investigation.

  38. The travel ban saves lifes. Leisure travel is unnecessary and business travel can be done virtually. As such, people should stay put in their homes in order to save lifes. I hope the travel ban stays in place.

  39. It is a ban on the Schengen area, not the EU! It includes Schengen countries that are not members of the EU like Norway or Switzerland, but does not include EU countries that haven’t ratified the Schengen treaty (Cyprus, Bulgaria, Croatia among others). It’s not the same thing at all so saying that it’s the EU is misleading.
    And it’s the same the other way – Americans can go to EU countries not members of the Schengen area, especially Croatia that was quite popular for us tourists this summer (but can’t go to Iceland or Switzerland that are Schengen members but not part of the EU).

  40. Lucky why are you politicizing this blog? First your banner at the top, now president-elect Biden?

    You and other journos don’t call the election. Wait until all the votes are counted and the court cases sorted out. This is highly irresponsible of you.

  41. Whilst I feel this was excellent in the beginning, trave ban, In fact Trump did a good job, I npw feel, that as we know more about the virus etc, The ban should be lifted.
    anyone coming from the EU, UK, etc, should have a Negative test result with them over age say 11/12 done with in the last 72 hours, . When arrfiving in US, distance kept , masks on, and maybe cases off the line waiting in customs, (similar to cruise ship) with Tags on showing , country or original. Extra Immigration staff, and mimmigration like in Ireland and Canada, for larger Countries, airports like Parid , amsterdam, London , Manchester, etc,.on arrival to US the usual heat check, etc. any syptoms you sign a form to say you will self isolate,

  42. INS Vikrant

    why are you denying the fact that it is President Elect Biden.

    States are certifying their results and it’s clear he has won based on that not on the Fox Decision Desk (and yes Fox says Biden has won)

    If you don’t like what Ben likes then I’m sure he’ll refund your subscription.

  43. @UA NYC

    Calm down there big guy I was only yoshing ya. Biden won. However the Supreme Court already overruled some of the newly imposed lockdowns in m NJ.

  44. @D3kingg – no worries, appreciate you acknowledging the truth 🙂 can’t say that for some of your brethren (see just a couple posts above). Yes we will increasingly see those types of rulings the next four years…will be interesting.

  45. This may facitilate business and family travel, however, US is not a great place to go on a vacation right now due to all the domestic restrictions that are in place. There still seem to be too many places that have restrictions in restaurants and shops, or even mask mandates. At this stage, it is better to travel within Europe, going to some of more open places. Not only can one enjoy wider range of services, but EHIC validity is also a great benefit at this time, when a lot of insurance policies exclude Covid.

  46. I’d say it doesn’t make sense to ban travel this far into the pandemic
    Overall, Covid is widely prevalent in Europe and America, and quarantine for travelers, bans etc won’t significantly reduce that prevalence, or they will to the effect of negligible proportions.
    The concept that ‘even saving one single life’ is ethically fascinating, but worldwide policy that follow that way are draconian to the effect that impact (and to sone effect end) million or other lives for maybe saving that one.

  47. Most people won’t feel like traveling anyways fir a while
    Having said that, I hear dozens of reports of dual passport holders traveling between Europe and US with the least impact on their schedule, despite the terrifying announcements in bans, extended quarantines and spreading we read daily. The issue is: if you reopen travel, don’t expect armies of holidaymakers for a while, but just those if us who have family business and interests on both sides of the ponds to be able to tend to those not negligible priorities with some serenity

  48. On people saying “the experience will be terrible”, it’s not just about tourism.

    There are many families who’d like to reunite and spend time at home for a couple of weeks, who haven’t had the chance to in 10 months.

  49. @Mark

    This is one of the main reasons why travel ban exists. Visiting relatives on the other side of the world is very dangerous and facilitates the spread of the virus. I understand it’s difficult, but best not to visit family in far away places until coronavirus is over with.

  50. What’s the criteria for banning a country or lifting?
    Now China has the lowest new infection rate and existing cases among the banned countries. But not currently under consideration with no explanation. Shame on the administration. They are not following the science and will make things worse.

  51. Honestly I would just like more nuance in the US response. My boyfriend is an EU citizen and has been banned for almost a year now. At least the EU has passed the exemption for non-married couples with proper documentation now. I would like to see the US allow for this type of travel. People have been separated from their loved ones for so long…. Tourism is one thing, and I agree that there should be caution and I don’t blame countries continuing to not allow US citizens… But the actual human and emotional cost is being completely overlooked- we don’t need a vacation, we need to be able to be together whatever we have to do- and at least the EU recognizes these situations and has made an effort to accommodate thousands like me.

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