Europe Recommends Banning Even Vaccinated Americans Again, Each Country To Chart Own Path

Update: The E.U. is indeed recommending only essential travel from the U.S., with individual nations free to decide whether to follow this guidance in full, to continue to allow vaccinated U.S. travelers, or to ignore it completely (though the latter seems unlikely since the policy was promulgated without objection by any member state).

We may see greater dispersion and uncertainty in travel rules for a period of time. It’s that uncertainty which make s planning trips so difficult, and which continues to weigh heavily on travel-reliant businesses.

The U.S. is being removed from the ‘safe list’ of countries for travel to Europe, along with Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia. This could involve a ban on non-essential travel and even for those fully vaccinated. We’ll learn the exact terms shortly.

  • We’ll learn soon whether the E.U. decision revokes travel freedom only for those who are unvaccinated, or for everyone.

  • The E.U. list is advisory, with individual nations setting their own rules. For instance Greece decided to open up months before the E.U. agreed to open borders to Americans. France and Spain had already announced their intention to do so, as well.

  • Most countries in Schengen Europe are likely to generally follow this guidance.

I’d point out two things in the background here,

  1. Peak tourism season is ending. So eliminating U.S. tourism now, as opposed to when the virus began taking off again here in early July, is much lower cost to European economics.
  2. The U.S. still refuses to allow those who have been in European within the past 14 days to visit – even if they are vaccinated and test negative – even as it welcomes people from Mexico, Russia, and Indonesia.

The U.S. won’t let in Europeans, so as it becomes lower cost to exclude Americans in the midst of high levels of virus transmission, it shouldn’t be any surprise that the European Union is making a move to do so. Ironically the move is being made as the rate of growth in U.S. cases has slowed, possibly indicating a peak, in other words they’re very late in doing this if it the move was being made primarily on scientific grounds. Expect many nations to follow this guidance, but along a schedule that works best for their local conditions.

On Friday I wrote that the EU was expected to recommend restrictions on many American travelers. Several readers pushed back and insisted that the title should have clearly reflected that this would apply to vaccinated travelers only. While I included that expected in the post, that was still speculative.

What we have is a return to ‘regime uncertainty’ which I’ve written about for a year as a key driver of difficulty in booking trips.

  • A destination may be open when you buy tickets, but will it still be open when it comes time to travel?
  • What about changes to rules for entering any connecting city, in the event of a misconnection?
  • And rules for returning to your home country, such as testing or vaccination requirements? (And which tests and vaccines count, taken how recently?)

I’m glad that I booked my next Europe trip with miles for air even though rates were low, because the trip is fully cancellable.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve got 3 trips to Germany in the next three months, that I’ve been waiting on since January 2020. If they get delayed or cancelled again I’m throwing in the towel.

  2. This is click-bait Gary.

    What has been reported is that the EU would remove the US from its Safe List. That would give the US the same status regarding EU COVID restrictions as the UK. Look at every EU country’s entry requirements for UK citizens–the vast majority let in vaccinated UK citizens regardless of reason. (The Netherlands imposes quarantine, but because they have the UK on their own “Very High Risk” list, which is separate from the EU list and is subject to separate decision making.)

    Do some research to learn the mechanics behind how the list works and how every EU country implements it. You’ll realize that for vaccinated travelers, this should be no big deal.

  3. @RetiredATLATC – I can sympathize. I originally scheduled a trip to Germany in March 2020 which was about 2 weeks after the travel ban was announced so that was cancelled. I rescheduled for November 2020 thinking that would be safe but it wasn’t. Next reschedule was September 2020 but I decided in early August that it wasn’t a good idea (even if I could get in which I was concerned would change) due to likely restrictions on activities, restaurants, etc so I have rescheduled yet again!

    My latest trip is March 2022 and I’m optimistic between the Delta variant likely gone by then, increased vaccination and new therapeutics I can finally get there (likely with some hoops to jump through and may still be wearing masks).

    All trips were with points/miles so no issue cancelling but disappointing to put my international travel plans on hold for so long.

  4. @Mark – well said. The fear-mongering makes for good click-bait, but has no bearing in reality.

    Numerous member countries have their own approaches and will continue to do so. Even one like Sweden, which bans direct entry from 3rd countries not on the safe list, still allows entry for those residents who enter Sweden from the EEA (and has no restrictions, not even testing, for entry from the Nordics).

    Denmark uses its own criteria for ranking both EU and 3rd countries. Many other examples.

    I’m guessing this will have little impact too, as most anti-vaxxers are unlikely to be world travelers, generally speaking.

  5. I am headed to Cyprus next week. Cyprus has clearly defined rules. Even if the US moves to a Red List country, they will still admit fully vaccinated Americans.

  6. I’m confused. Can someone clarify? Greece is now level 4, still allowing in US if fully vaccinated. (While India, OTOH, is level 3 and not letting anyone in under tourist visa).

    If the EU bans Americans (and again, the confusion is even if vaccinated or not???) will the UK fall under the same?

    I don’t know if the UK is currently open to the US.

  7. This stuff is so frustrating. Let vaccinated people in (BOTH directions), keep unvaccinated people out. Do not ever send the message, “Who cares about vaccination?” that our own U.S. authorities seem to be so enamored with, using those four deadly words, “regardless of vaccination status.”

    Both administrations and all parties are part of the problem. Let’s put solutions over politics.

  8. I’ve never quite understood what the point is (other than making the credulous think something is being done) in closing a land border when there are roughly equal amounts of the virus on both sides of it. Even if one country then vaccinates at a higher rate than the other that doesn’t justify it as the “better off” one now has a lower risk anyway and the other is no worse off. But in any case many borders aren’t really closed since freight moves across them. And in densely populated Europe this makes even less sense–trying to fully police the land boundaries between say, Belgium and France or Spain and Portugal might have worked in the 1930s, that seems rather impossible today. Similar arguments can be made about lock downs unless there’s some end plan within a reasonable date–these can’t go on forever. Anyone have thoughts on this?

  9. Can someone tell me what proof of US vaccination is expected to be required by the EU? Do our little paper cards suffice?

  10. @Drrichard-
    You raised a good point. I think the answer is that closing borders doesn’t mean totally. As you said, freight moves across. I think they mean closing borders to those countries with an increase in numbers. It sounds to me that if countries are allowing ONLY fully vaccinated people in, if the numbers are increasing in that country, it’s because that country’s citizens aren’t vaccinated. I’m not saying vaccinated people won’t get the virus. But the chances are considerably less. As with any illness.

  11. @Felicia – you’re looking at State Department travel warnings. Those have nothing to do what what restrictions the Individual countries may impose on non-essential travel.

  12. @GetReal – yes, you’re right, I’m looking at the State Dept. But in a way, it does tie in to the EU’s decision to potentially ban Americans, as they said (forgot the stats, something like 70 cases out of 10,000?)
    I do wonder, though, how much of this is based off of childlike thinking. “You won’t let us in, so we won’t let you in.” I’m sick of the childish behavior over supposed adults.

  13. @ Gary — “Personally I do not see Europe shutting down to vaccinated Americans again, perhaps a vaccine and negative test is required. But once they reopen I suspect they stay open.” Now about our trip to AMS next week… 🙁 Fingers crossed, not optimistic.

  14. @Gary, again with the click bait. Your headline is plain wrong. Even the NYT, which has done its research, is saying the move to drop the US from the safe list will not likely impact vaccinated travelers. I expect better from you!

  15. European countries can do what they want irrespective of the EU guidance as you know. Greece starting letting in Americans in April before any EU pronouncements.
    We are leaving for Italy in a week and the Italian government as of today not only wants fully vaxxed Americans by a negative PCR/Antigen test 72 hours. It’s just one more hoop to jump through along with the QR codes for transit in transiting in Madrid and Italy.
    The one rule which is beyond stupid is the antigen test that the US wants vaccinated Americans to take coming back into the country, while half of the country is unvaccinated and we have the highest caseload in the world/deaths.

  16. @SC what do you mean by “the Italian government as of today not only wants fully vaxxed Americans by a negative PCR/Antigen test 72 hours”. We are due to go to Italy in few weeks and I am not aware of any changes (yet) to the rules for vaccinated travelers. Do you mean “fully vaccinated OR PCR test”? What is your source?

  17. The flip-flopping will continue as long as the current crop of politicians stay in place.
    Only a TOTAL rejection of current politicians and installing people with common sense will change things for the better.

  18. @SB I recommend for the most updated information regarding entrance requirements for various countries.

  19. “If enforced, the new restrictions would only apply to unvaccinated travelers — the European Council already recommends that all visitors who have been fully inoculated with an E.U.-approved vaccine be allowed to travel. That includes the three vaccines available in the United States.” That’s what the New York Times just posted and it conflicts with the title of this post that “Europe Recommends Banning Even Vaccinated Americans Again”. I’d like to find the exact text of the motion they passed today because seems like it is being interpreted (or misinterpreted) in wildly different ways. Did they make a new, specific recommendation “banning even vaccinated Americans” that supersedes the old recommendation, or are you assuming that the action to remove the US from the safe country list is a de facto recommendation for bans? If all they did was approve the removal of the US and a few other countries mentioned from the “safe list”, then everything else seems like just speculation at this point. Not trying to give you a hard time, would just love some concise info on this subject and it’s hard to find.

  20. Gary- we just got an email from Delta saying we would have to provide a negative COVID-19 test for our upcoming flight to Rome this weekend–regardless of vaccination status. Just a heads up!

  21. @Larry – the point is everyone is figuring out what’s going to happen.

    The EU removed the US from the safe list. Unvaccinated travelers are recommended not to be allowed (unless it’s ‘essential travel’).

    Vaccinated travelers also may not be permitted. The EU said a country could still decide to allow vaccinated travelers.

    Officials *speaking anonymously* ( say the expectation is that countries will still allow vaccinated travelers.

    (“Restrictions “can vary from state to state, but it is widely expected that fully vaccinated Americans would still maintain unfettered access” to the European Union, said an E.U. diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”)

    Europe-wide pronouncements that don’t government what individual European governments do is a recipe for confusion!

  22. The officials may say to follow the science, but it is all political science these days. The constant changes makes flying risky. Then there are the cruises where itineraries can be changed at the drop of a hat. U-Haul used to advertise Adventures in Moving but these days you have Adventures in Travel before you can even set foot out the door. Dozens of our travel plans have been tossed since Spring 2020 and uncertainty is now extending into plans made as far out as Spring 2022.

  23. @Larry it on the Italian government website. You have to be vaccinated and in addition take a PCR or Antigen test 72 hours before arrival

  24. @Gary, it’s not a recipe for confusion if you understand how the EU operates—and fundamentally understand what type of body it is. The mechanics are plain to see.

    1. Consider who has been on this list thus far. Who has been off.

    2. Research the entry requirements for those that have been off or who have never made the Safe Countries list,

    3. Recognize that folks operate in frameworks, and that what applies to one country not on the safe list will apply to the US.

    All things being equal, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    It’s clear if you do not the research that this is a nothingburger for the vaccinated. I say this as I am presently en route to France. My boarding passes were printed after the announcement was final.

    I’ll report back to this thread with updates to my multi-country trip to counter your mongering.

  25. @ Mark — No one said taht any of these potential restrictions would be effective today, so it is no surprise that your departure to France was uneventful. Tomorrow may be different.

  26. @SC: I can’t find this new vaccinated testing requirement for Italy anywhere. I usually refer to the US Embassy site for the host country (nothing there- but I also checked the Italian Tourism site (nothing- and the Italian Ministry of Health (couldn’t find anything neither in English nor what I understand of Italian I guess it must have just been added today but no idea where it is posted. I love a good treasure hunt but can you post a link?? Thanks

    @Gary: I agree the whole thing is confusing and a cluster but I think you should change the title of this post because it seems there was in fact no recommendation for a ban on vaccinated Americans (even the references you post in your comment above state that) so better to not add to the confusion by making it sound like there was. The CDC also recommends against travel to a long list of countries including most in the EU but that is not a ban. A ban means you cannot enter.

  27. We have an office in Guyana and our director tells me that the Sputnik vaccine is what the government is using, with very limited distribution. In any case, they are free to travel to the US even without the vaccination while vaccinated Europeans are not. I will be happy when the EU imposes restrictions on US citizens.

  28. Just ban the ‘Murican anti-vaxxers already. Any halfway smart EU country should see the US South hospital beds overflowing with them right now, and realize that’s the last thing they want in their own hospitals.

  29. Article feels like fear mongering and click bait. These are merely EU recommendations and they specifically say that countries can make their own decisions about vaccinated people. The only ones who should be alarmed about this are the unvaccinated. Doesn’t seem credible that Europe is going to close down to fully vaccinated travelers.

  30. @Kooperj, it is actually the higher IQ people that tend to be persecuted by their governments and become refugees,;say; for example, people who speak an Afghan language and English fluently and give years of service to our military as translators. The low IQ people tend to just blindly go along with what their government says and stay out of trouble.

  31. The NY Times and the AP are reporting that this exclusion only applies ro unvacinated people.

    Can you substantiate your headline?

  32. Flying EWR – LIS on Sunday, followed by LIS – AMS 5 days later. Have not been told we are not going by the airline (TAP) so I assume it is on until not…

  33. CHECK WITH THE AIRLINE !!! UNITED AIRLINES has kept me up-to-date of all the requirements for my Italy trip Sept 6, which DOES INCLUDE MANDATORY Covid-19 test up-to 72 hours before the flight.
    United States 53.0% of population fully vaccinated
    Italy 60.8% of population fully vaccinated

  34. Air Europa to To Milan via Madrid has not informed us of anything. Worst customer service on the planet. I had a feeling that a COVID test would be needed so booked the 7th Sept for Travel the 8th. I use SHERPA/Cranky and Wendy Perrins website for all country entry requirements.

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