It’s Time To Lift Restrictions For Entering The U.S.

The U.S. government is taking baby steps coming to its senses on travel advisories, no longer listing Israel and the U.K. with the highest level of travel warning – as they recently did for 80% of the countries in the world.

Israel has been among the world leaders in vaccination, and that’s made Covid-19 almost non-existent in the country. As of this writing the current 7-day average of new cases there is 48, yet even after State Department revisions it’s listed as elevated risk. Shouldn’t they list the U.S. as being more risky than Israel? Indeed, aren’t you at less risk if you travel there than stay here?

Meanwhile the U.K. has really gotten the virus under control as well. On a per capita bases there’s about a quarter the Covid-19 there that there is in the U.S. They’re even going to permit casual sex again lifting the ban on people from different households spending the night together, hugging, and kissing.

Yet U.S. travel policies have not kept up with world events, or even the science of Covid-19.

  • Travelers from the U.K. remain banned from traveling to the U.S. even if they have been vaccinated and test negative for Covid-19.

  • Travel is mostly banned from China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, the European Schengen area, the U.K. and Ireland. Yet we never banned travelers from Bahrain or Peru, which had some of the world’s worst outbreaks. By the way, did you know that South Africa has orders of magnitude fewer reported cases per capita than the U.S. does?

  • Vaccinated travelers still have to get a Covid-19 test to fly back to the U.S. while those who have recently covered from the virus do not. Meanwhile no test is required for most domestic travel, or to visit crowded bars or other indoor events.

  • Antigen tests of varying quality, taken anywhere in the world, are accepted. No test is required to cross a U.S. land border.

The variants are here anyway. That’s not just because of travel. The virus mutates in similar ways all over the world, evolving naturally in the U.S. so it’s just imported.

Since there’s enough vaccine here for anyone in the U.S. who wants one to get one, we should lift travel restrictions. At a minimum there’s no reason for restrictions targeted at travelers from the U.K. and China where Coivd-19 is far less prevalent than it is here.

Vaccinated travelers should be exempt from testing requirements since the CDC’s research shows that the mRNA vaccines reduce the likelihood of being a carrier of the virus by 90% and in the CDC Director’s own words, “vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don`t get sick.”

And we should be vaccinating the world, releasing our excess doses and funding vaccine manufacturing and distribution everywhere. Clamping down on the presence of the virus means eliminating hosts within which it can mutate. Doing this would have been far less expensive than any of the standalone coronavirus spending packages that have been passed over the last 14 months. Speculative, but I wonder if airlines would even have benefited more if the second or third round of subsidies they received had been spent instead of ramping up vaccination abroad.

The U.S. should drop its ban on travel from areas with less Covid-19 than the United States. And it should drop its requirement for a Covid-19 test for those that have been vaccinated.

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. […] These guidelines – which also now apply to visitors from Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Lebanon, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong – would allow tourists with a negative Covid-19 test regardless of vaccination status. The ban on Americans will be lifted Europe-wide and it’s certainly time to lift restrictions for traveling to the U.S. as well. […]


  1. Even if the USA were to open its borders to other continents May 15th, it will still take airlines a few months to get planes back into the air. Taking a plane out of storage takes time and money, and unless airlines can make money on a route which will most likely require business travelers (which aren’t coming back so soon) they’ll follow a slow and steady pace. It’s all symbolic gestures, and it’s not any different than what many countries are doing.

    Making Vaccines requires very specialized equipment, facilities and materials. These aren’t in stock at the local big box store. They take years to build, and are in serious demand. It’s be nice to think that you could “whip up another batch”, but reality is very different.

  2. It’s ridiculous that a US Citizen who has been fully immunized with a US-CDC Card still has to receive a test to get back home. That needs to stop immediately.

  3. Gary, perhaps you should consider starting a petition on the website of the White House and ask everyone to sign it.

  4. @DanG – what planes in storage? American Airlines, for instance, has all of its aircraft out of storage. United reports that whenever a destination announces being open to Americans, its bookings skyrocket. Just today the airlines were calling for reciprocal lifting of restrictions on travel between the U.S. and U.K., and they’ve been downright jubilant over Europe’s re-opening plans.

    Regardless, the U.S. shouldn’t be *banning* travel when there’s little scientific basis or benefit to it at this point.

  5. One has to wonder if the CDC and the royal ferret will ever get anything right…not holding my breath!!

  6. For my business travel between the US and Europe is extremely helpful. These travel bans have really taxed our resources and cost us business. Lift them already.

  7. President Harris doesn’t take kindly to criticism. Consider yourself warned.

  8. If this is what they say: CDC Director’s own words, “vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don`t get sick.”
    If people that have been vaccinated DON’T get sick, then people who have not been vaccinated either because they don’t want to or they can’t because of an immunity disorder should be allowed to fly (or cruise). Those non vaccinated people WON’T get the vaccinated people sick! Ridiculous….

  9. Just ban any non-vaccinated from travelling anywhere, and open it up for everyone else with no restrictions!

    Jail time for fake certificates too

  10. Vaccination proof (current) and/or a negative test should be required. South America is a mess, especially Brazil. Mexico has not idea (hear about more people traveling there and coming back with Covid-19). China. . really, I am an independent and think they have lied about the origin and how many people actually were infected and died ( Cremation increase 400% during the early months of the outbreak so the death toll is several times what has been reported as well as the infection rate ).

    We need to be cautions for the next year plus and do what’s right to prevent new strains infecting our shores and not trust our enemies are “partners” going forward. That being said, the EU/UK, SE Asian Friends, South America (once it calms down) should be have a path for travel that ensure the countries safety.

  11. I have appreciated your sensible and fact based approach to your reporting and analysis on this crisis. I think that too much of what the CDC does is for appearances and can become counter-productive when it doesn’t take into account how people will think and react. Specifically on vaccines it needs to be a number one global priority to get them out everywhere ASAP. Part of that is to stop undervaluing vaccination in policy and recommendations in countries where they are readily available.

    @Bob, I agree once everyone has had a chance to be fully vaccinated. Since many live in countries where vaccines are not yet available, we also need a way for people to enter with testing and perhaps targeted quarantine based on actual risk. The reluctance and opposition of governments to make vaccination a requirement for return to normal life is frustrating.

  12. Amen. It makes NO SENSE for people from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and almost all of Latin America — all Level 4 CDC travel advisory countries (same as Europe), to be able to come to the US, but the people from Europe (same CDC level as Latin America) cannot. And the UK is a Level 3 country (better than the Latin American countries), and they cannot come. Yet the US is letting lots of Level 4 countries in. Makes NO SENSE. Where’s the “follow the science?”

  13. Gary,
    If you think any of this is about science then you haven’t been paying attention.

  14. @Gary,

    I know the Visa-waiver program closed down very fast last year (mid-March ?)
    I did however apply for a new ESTA-Visa in late April, and within 20 minutes the CBP approved the ESTA-Visa.
    I am a Norwegian citizen, with a Norwegian passport, and have been vaccinated with the Pfizer.
    I have reached out to the American Embassy in Oslo, but have not yet received any reply, will I be eligible to enter the US without a quarantine ?

  15. Just so you all know Airlines are WAY BACKED UP in training. I am at a regional and we are not even able to meet 50% of out parent airline’s demands.

  16. When did travel bloggers / credit card hawkers become authorities on boarder control policy?

  17. @JJ
    > It’s ridiculous that a US Citizen who has been fully immunized with a US-CDC Card still has to receive a test to get back home.

    Agree. It’s ridiculous that there’s no system to verify whether that card is real or a fake bought for $20 on the internet. Without such system, the card is completely useless.

  18. Don’t forget that Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, etc. etc. did not believe the lies of “the virus will be here anyway” and are doing great economically and certainly from a health standpoint (average life expectancy in the US declined by 1.0 year in 2020 from 2019, while it increased(!) in Australia).

    No different with the variant. But let’s not science stand in the way of hawking travel cards.

  19. @JJ,

    Re: “It’s ridiculous that a US Citizen who has been fully immunized with a US-CDC Card still has to receive a test to get back home. That needs to stop immediately.”

    I’m one of those people who has to receive a test to get back home and does so as much as necessary. Even if the US were to adjust the testing standard requirement (and related attestation form)
    for persons vaccinated like myself, tests may still be required depending on the route taken back to the US.

  20. Peter Fox,

    There is no effective quarantine enforcement being practiced for international arrivals into the US. Whether or not you’re vaccinated doesn’t make a difference at this point: if you can travel and get admitted into the US, it’s remained an “on your own honor” system with no federal government enforcement.

  21. Gary,

    Better hope that we don’t see a repeat of Seychelles in Europe. Despite the high level of vaccinations in the Seychelles, they seem to be having troubling outcomes.

    They’ve been using one of the Chinese vaccines and the Indian-produced AstraZeneca vaccine. Whether it’s an issue with the vaccines themselves or with the handling of the vaccines is still to be determined.

  22. I agree wholeheartedly. I will also say though that the airlines need to get their crap together. I understand (somewhat) that it takes them time to get flights back online but living around smaller airports I am sick of each airline there is! They stopped most of our direct flights last year and now instead of adding them back, they keep opening new routes to travel destinations. These were flights that were almost always full that they have not brought back online. Now for me to get from TUL or XNA to NYC is a pain and you want an award ticket? Get ready for crazy routing. Probably 2 layovers and maybe 16 hours to get to NYC. A simple 1-hour flight TUL to DEN can run $250 on way. Southwest is being ridiculous with their pricing. They are all filling up planes but must be determined to make up what they lost – even though we bailed them out twice. Same with rental cars. They can make up excuses, but they are just excuses to charge us more.

  23. @Ampy… Just to make sure the COMPLETE story is posted… “The CDC later walked back Walensky’s comments in part, telling the New York Times that the evidence “isn’t clear” and that the director was “speaking broadly.”

    “We hope that within the next five or so months we’ll be able to answer the very important question about whether vaccinated people get infected asymptomatically, and if they do, do they transmit the infection to others,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said at a White House COVID-19 task-force briefing on Friday.”

  24. “Travelers from the U.K. remain banned from traveling to the U.S. even if they have been vaccinated and test negative for Covid-19.”

    Tough. Even with the easing of restriction coming on the 17th, the U.K. won’t allow Americans in, even if fully vaccinated, without a quarantine.

  25. Actually, with all the sleazeballs in the world, I can understand continuing to test everyone. There’s little official stuff that can’t be replicated now by almost anyone. The point is, test away but let us travel when and where we want.

    The US (and UK too probably) will be very slow to relax the restrictions … all the politicians and bureaucrats have never had so much fun as the last 18 months pushing us around. The fewer restrictions we have, the more likely that they’ll actually have to do some real work … if they ever did any in the first place.

  26. Covid tests of vaxed passengers to enter the USA are silly, costly and highly inconvenient. They should definitely be eliminated.

    Meanwhile, I hate to rain on all the happy talk, but the idea that vaccines are a wonder drug is still uncertain. There is certainly evidence they’re effective, but there’s also contrary evidence that tends to get brushed aside. Some countries have “eliminated” Covid with no vaccines — like South Africa. Other low-vax countries have done as well as their vaxing neighbors (like Mexico compared to USA). Meanwhile, several highly vaxed countries have had nasty recent outbreaks. The truth is we don’t really know — even though “the experts” are always telling us they do know, even after they’ve been wrong far more often than right. The good news is that all respiratory viruses eventually go endemic and fade into the background, so life will go on regardless.

  27. It’s hard to imagine a government agency being flat footed, clumsy, & agonizingly slow to respond to evolving situations. Look how fast the European Union rolled out vaccines compared to the greedy, profit-driven US pharmaceutical industry. Or the US Postal service: my mother’s day card only took 11 days to travel 335 miles.

  28. “The variants are here anyway. ” so we should import more of it? Seriously we are finally getting our numbers down and you want to throw the doors open to more variants? There are too many unvaccinated people here and they can die just like people in those other countries. Just because there are some variant cases here doesn’t mean those particular variants are widespread but if you keep importing cases they will become widespread. There should be restrictions on Peru. They even have their own variant now that either occurred there or in Chile. What this travel blogger doesn’t seem to understand is that with every new variant in these foreign countries we don’t know automatically how effective the vaccines are against it. So maybe before importing a bunch of variant cases into the US we figure that out instead of unleashing another whole surge on the country? I’m all for lifting restrictions with the UK and China and other places that have gotten covid under control, but with south america where things continue to ramp up with new variants or India that is being devastated by their variants? Absolutely not. Not until we know the vaccines are effective against those variants.

  29. It is precisely because of such clueless and ignorant comments from people who sell credit cards that the entire world is in the ongoing grip of this pandemic.

    Spreading the virus you contract or carry by going to countries where it is on the loose and then brining it home only endangers the lives of the people you love, live or work with.

    And for what purpose?

    When everyone is vaccinated and booster shots are available to counter new mutations as an when needed then it may be possible to return to the old normal without the risk of dying from Chinese Corona Virus.

    But as to when we reach that stage I am going to rely on the worlds best scientists and doctors, not some self appointed quack who wouldn’t know the difference between a common cold and the Chinese Corona Virus.

  30. DaveS: I just watched the CBS news where Dr. Fauci said that people that have been vaccinated can be around non vaccinated people, that they won’t get sick…. so, I believe that travel should be back to what it once was period, since it seems everything is OK according to higher ups etc…..

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