Ever since it was first introduced back in 1986, the Visa Waiver Program has allowed thousands, if not millions, of people from friendly nations to visit the United States visa-free. It simplified travel between eligible countries, enabling many to forge lifelong friendships and experiences overseas.
That being said, the ongoing pandemic has thrown a massive wrench into this fine-tuned machine. With a travel ban in place, many are wondering if it’s even possible to cross the border at this moment, even if you have a valid ESTA?
Travel Ban Explained
When the pandemic hit not so long ago the world was too slow to react. Despite the exchange of information happening in real-time, most governments were caught by surprise when the virus appeared on their doorstep. The same applies to the United States, which somehow ignored the possible effects of the pandemic when it started to spread in the country.
To curb the infection rate of the virus and buy individual national CDCs some time, many countries around the world have instituted a complete travel ban. As expected, the tourism industry was among those most heavily affected.
Still, the travel ban is not the same in all countries. In some European countries, you could still cross the border if you’re in transit or if you’ve got a valid negative COVID-19 test. But what about the United States?
Can You Travel to the United States Despite the Travel Ban?
So you’ve planned your trip for a whole year, mapped out all the places you want to visit, filled out your ESTA Form, and had it approved, but the pandemic struck. What does that mean for your plans? Can you still make your travel to the United States and experience the things you’ve looked forward to for so long?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. From January to June, the White House has issued a number of proclamations limiting the movement of people and goods across the U.S. border. Per these proclamations, any person who has been physically present within the Schengen zone, the UK, Ireland, China, Iran, and a number of other countries, are prohibited from entering the U.S.
Considering that most of the Visa Waiver Program members are also within the Schengen zone, the situation is clear. A previously approved ESTA does not supersede the presidential proclamations or the travel ban that is in effect at this moment.
What Does That Mean for Your Current Travel Arrangements?
If you’re in possession of an approved ESTA, you can travel to the United States within a 2-year window. Although travel is severely limited due to the temporary travel ban, the situation is subject to change.
Depending on how the pandemic evolves in the near future, you might be able to make good on your travel plans sooner rather than later. With that being said, it’s best that you adapt your current travel arrangements to meet whatever restrictions are in place in your country of origin.
As the pandemic is still a problem in most countries, which includes the United States. Travel bans are implemented, but some still accept travelers if they are clear of the virus and should comply with travel restrictions and safety measures to protect the health of everyone. If you already planned or still planning for a trip to the United States at this time, make sure to keep up to date with the developing news from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as well as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. If there will be no other choice and the pandemic is still around, we suggest that you should be patient and reschedule your travel plans for the meantime.