The United States will relax restrictions on vaccinated visitors travelling to the U.S, the Biden Administration announced today. The exact date has yet to be disclosed, but is expected to be in early November and means that travellers who can prove their vaccination status, and who take a test not more than three days before arrival, can travel without restrictions once in the U.S. Phone numbers and contact details will also be taken for contact tracing, and masks must be worn for the journey to and from the United States.

The new regime will replace the 212f restrictions which currently prevent anyone from entering the U.S if they had been in 33 specific countries including the UK, Ireland, all Schengen countries, Brazil, South Africa, India, and China within the last 14 days.

The move came as a surprise to UK airlines and the wider travel industry, which had been campaigning for it for many months.

Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO and Chairman said:

“Today’s news, which will see our two nations reunited after more than 18 months apart, marks an historic moment and one which will provide a huge boost to Global Britain as it emerges from this pandemic. We are immensely grateful to the Prime Minister and his Government for all the hard work that’s gone into securing this deal with the US, and which builds upon last Friday’s announcement on the lifting of many travel restrictions. Our customers should now feel that the world is re-opening to them and they can book their trips with confidence.”

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “The prospect of the U.S. lifting travel restrictions to restore transatlantic travel between the U.K. and U.S is welcome news – not just for hard-pressed airlines but for the wider Travel & Tourism sector, which has been decimated by COVID-19. It will finally enable families to reunite, business travellers to resume face-to-face meetings and for Travel & Tourism to return for Brits looking to travel to America.

“The UK alone represents 8 per cent of all inbound travel to the US, accounting for US$ 40 million per day to the nation’s economy.

Andrew Crawley, American Express Global Business Travel’s Chief Commercial Officer, said:

“After more than 550 days of shut borders, we are thrilled that the US will finally be reopening to fully vaccinated travellers from the UK and EU. There is huge pent-up demand for transatlantic travel among our customers and we fully expect to see a sustained spike in bookings.  It is a positive step forward for global economic recovery and we await further details from the White House.”

The Financial Times reports that the US Centers for Disease Control is still determining which vaccines will be accepted by the US, and this will be crucial for UK travellers since so many have had the Astrazeneca vaccine.  The Food and Drug Administration has authorised the BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the decision.

“Today’s announcement is a major step forward. Allowing access to the US for those vaccinated will open travel to the US for many who have been locked out for the past 18 months. This is excellent news for families and loved ones who have suffered through the heartache and loneliness of separation. It’s good for the millions of livelihoods in the US that depend on global tourism. And it will boost the economic recovery by enabling some key business travel markets,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

“This announcement marks a key shift in managing the risks of COVID-19 from blanket considerations at the national level to assessment of individual risk. The next challenge is finding a system to manage the risks for travelers who do not have access to vaccinations. Data points to testing as a solution. But it is also critical that governments accelerate the global rollout of vaccines and agree a global framework for travel where testing resources are focused on unvaccinated travelers. We must get back to a situation where the freedom to travel is available to all,” said Walsh.