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What you need to know about travelling to the USA from the UK


The UK’s recent relaxations to travel regulations have dramatically impacted holiday bookings.

Updated (11/02/2013): Fully vaccinated travellers now don’t need to pass any Covid-19 checks upon returning to the UK after a trip.

For those who have not had their vaccines, the rules have changed, and individuals no longer have any need to self isolate on return.

For those who have not been double jabbed, they must still provide proof of a negative blood test that was performed two days before the return trip to the UK.

All UK passengers arriving must complete a passenger location form before they are allowed to return. However, the government has promised that this will be made easier after many complaints.

The travel trade group Abta claimed that the industry is entering a new phase and has seen an increase in bookings.

Turkey, Egypt and Portugal are the most popular short-haul destinations. Meanwhile, departures to the US state Florida and Dubai, Mexico and the Caribbean have done well for longer-haul holidays.

These are the Covid-19 travel rules that you must know if your long-haul trip is to the United States.


What are the entry requirements for the USA?  

All travellers

To enter the USA as a visitor, you will need a visa, or an Electronic System for Travel Authorisations (ESTA), visa waiver. You can find the US State Department web page to learn which one you will require.

You should know that if you have travelled to or were in Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen after 1 March 2011, your eligibility for an ESTA Visa waiver is usually denied. You will need a US visa.

If you’re fully vaccinated

Foreign citizens who have been fully vaccinated can enter the USA. The US authorities accept any COVID-19 approved vaccine by the World Health Organisation, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and approved for emergency usage by the World Health Organisation. These include AstraZeneca. BIBP/Sinopharm. Covishield. Janssen. Moderna. Pfizer BioNTech. and Sinovac. The whole series of the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca and Novavax COVID-19 trial vaccines are required to be considered vaccinated. More information can be found on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Embassy. British nationals planning on travelling to the USA must familiarise themselves with the new requirements from the CDC before booking any travel.

If they do not have an exception, all current visa holders located in the USA must comply with vaccine entry requirements. This applies to F-1 and M-1 visa holders, as well those with an existing National Interest Exemption. The US Embassy website has more information.

A majority of passengers travelling to the USA require a negative COVID-19 screening result at least one day before departure. All USA passengers need to give contact information to their airlines. For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your airline. The CDC website outlines all requirements for pretravel testing, and children under 2 years are not required to undergo testing.

On arrival, travellers should be fully vaccinated

  • There is no need to quarantine
  • It is strongly recommended that you undergo viral testing within three to five working days of arriving in the US.

If you have recovered from COVID-19 infections within the past 90-days (regardless if you are vaccinated):

  • There is no need to test for a blood type within 3 to 5-days of travelling.

Travelling within the USA may require you to meet certain quarantine restrictions. A complete list of quarantine requirements in each state can be found on the CDC website. You should regularly check the list as it is subject to change often due to increases or decreases in COVID-19-related transmission.

It is mandatory to wear a mask when travelling by plane, train, bus, or airport.

Proof of vaccination status


The USA will receive the UK’s documentation proving COVID-19 recovery, the UK’s record of vaccination, and the proof of the COVID-19 vaccination given in Crown Dependencies. Your final dose of vaccines must have been received at least 14 business days before your travel date. Your NHS appointment cards from vaccination centres are not intended to be used in the proof of vaccination.

The CDC website lists forms that can be used to prove COVID-19 status. This also includes the European Union Digital COVID Certificate. Other acceptable methods of proof include a copy of a COVID-19-certified vaccination record, or a COVID-19-authorised vaccine provider’s COVID-19 certified vaccination certificate: A digital photo of a vaccination record or card, a downloaded vaccination record, or a certified vaccination certificate from an authorised source (e.g. Public health agency, government agencies, or other authorised vaccine providers), or a smartphone application without a code QR code. COVID-19 must include personal identity, minimum including full name, birth date, and information that matches travel documents or passports. It must also include the name, date and vaccine manufacturer of the official source issuing this record.

If you’re still not fully vaccinated

Only US Citizens, US Nationals and US Legal Permanent Residents will be permitted to travel the USA unvaccinated. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Embassy have more information.

If you have had COVID-19 in the past year

If you aren’t fully vaccinated but have been tested for COVID-19 during the last year, you can still not enter the USA unless your meet one of these exceptions as detailed on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Embassy. In order to allow you to travel to the US, you must submit documentation or a negative result proving that you have been free from COVID-19 for at least three months.

Children and young people

Children 17 and younger are exempted from the vaccination requirement. Children below 2 years old do NOT need to undergo pre-departure testing.

The US definitions for fully vaccinated children and adults are identical. This is not the UK, and further information is on the US Embassy website.

Children under 17 who have not been fully immunised are exempt from the quarantine. However, they will need to be tested 3 to 5 business days after arriving in the US.

A child travelling with an adult who is not fully vaccinated or who is travelling alone will need to present proof of positive viral test results from a sample taken within a day of departure.

If a child (17 or under) is travelling alone or with someone other than a parent or legal guardian, you may be asked to show certain documents at immigration. For more information, please visit the US Customs and Border Protection web page.

US Visa appointments

Visa appointments at US Embassy London are currently limited because of COVID-19. You are advised to apply as soon as possible prior to your departure date. If you need to travel urgently, you can request an interview via the appointment service provider of the US Embassy.

Further information can be found at the US Embassy’s webpage.

If you’re travelling through USA

Passengers who are travelling to the USA should apply for a visa. For more information, you can go to the US State Department web. It is essential that you follow the COVID guidelines as described above. All passengers are required to comply with state and local COVID safety standards, including the wearing of masks and social distancing.


Only US Citizens, US Nationals and US Legal Permanent Residents are allowed to transit the US unvaccinated. More information can be found on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Embassy. The US Embassy also contains a list containing exceptions to vaccination requirements for certain groups of non-citizens and not-immigrants.

Before you travel, be sure to verify your passport and travel documents.

Passport validity

For the duration of your visit to the USA, your passport should be valid, and your passport does not need an additional period of validity beyond that.

You should consult your travel agency to confirm that your passport is compliant with their requirements.

The US Customs and Border Protection (Global Entry ) allows pre-approved passengers to pass through US immigration faster at some US airports. You can register as a British citizen to obtain a UK criminal background check via GOV.UK. You will be invited for Global Entry once you have passed the background checks.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Papers (ETDs), cannot be used to enter or transit the USA via an ESTA. ETDs cannot be used to enter the USA, and ETDs from the UK issued in the USA will be valid for the exit.

Bringing medicines into the USA


Certain prescription drugs are prohibited from being imported into the US. The USA Food and Drug Administration website provides additional information and guidance on how to import medicines into the USA.

Travelling to the USA from Cuba

It is possible to travel from the USA to Cuba after your visit. For any questions by US immigration officials, you will need to have supporting documents describing your Cuban travel plans. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the closest US Embassy or Consulate for all other questions and concerns.

Returning to the UK


All passengers aged 12 and above who are travelling to the UK from abroad must complete an online tourist locator form before departing. You can fill out the form for those under 18 who are travelling with you.

If you can be deemed fully vaccinated prior to or after your arrival in the UK, there is no need for you to take any tests, and you are not required to quarantine. The same rules apply to travellers under 18 years of age.

If you’re over 18 years of age, you may not have been fully vaccinated.

  • A negative Covid-19 screening will be required. This must be done within two days of your arrival in the UK.
  • To book the PCR test and to have it taken within 2 days of your arrival to the UK, you will need it. This must be booked with an independent provider before you travel.
  • You do not need to quarantine if your PCR is positive.

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