Updated 3 August 2021
The United States of America is a prominent name on the list of countries now open to tourists. Considering the fact that New York and London are two of the biggest business, fashion, as well tourist hubs in the world, it is only understandable that the COVID-19 restrictions have caused inconvenience to many.
Here, we break down the rules you’ll have to adhere to while flying from the UK to the USA, as well as from the USA to the UK.
From the US to the UK
Can I travel?
As of 3 August, the United States falls on the amber list of the UK government. This means travellers from the US can enter the United Kingdom but will be subject to stringent testing and quarantine regulations.
If you are travelling to the UK, you first need to get tested in the 3 days preceding your departure and carry the negative results.
This could include tests such as:
- a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
- an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device
The test must meet performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.
The test certificate must include the following information:
- your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
- your date of birth or age
- the result of the test
- the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
- the name of the test provider and their contact details
- confirmation of the device used for the test, or that the test was a PCR test
The results should only be in English, Spanish or French; translations are not accepted. They can be shown in either print or electronic form. Children aged 10 and under do not need to take this test.
If you are not fully vaccinated
On arrival, you need to quarantine for 10 days at your home or the place you’re staying. You’ll be subject to a second COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and a third test on or after day 8. The day you arrive counts as day 0.
The two tests must be booked before you depart for the country. You can check the providers and book your tests here. Under the Test To Release scheme, you can take an additional test after at least 5 days of quarantine, and if confirmed negative, can end your quarantine early.
Children aged 4 and under do not need to take the day 2 or day 8 test.
If you are fully vaccinated
You need not undergo quarantine. You must take a COVID-19 PCR test on or before day 2 after you arrive. Children aged 4 and under do not need to take this test. You do not need to quarantine unless the day 2 test result is positive.
Passenger locator form
All arriving and transiting passengers in the UK must fill the passenger locator form online any time in the 48 hours before scheduled arrival.
The form is free to submit.
- your passport details or the travel document you’ll use when you arrive at the UK border
- your travel details, including times and dates
- the address where you will stay in the UK
- booking reference numbers for any COVID-19 tests you must take after arriving in the UK
- the invoice number for your quarantine hotel booking
US regulations for outbound passengers
The CDC doesn’t prohibit international travel, but advises travellers, especially unvaccinated travellers, to avoid travel at all costs. Wearings masks on all flights to, within and from the United States is mandatory.
It asks unvaccinated passengers flying out of the States to take a viral test 1-3 days before their trip, even if not required by the destination country.
Are flights available?
Yes, flights to the UK departing from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit and Houston can now be booked easily.
American Airlines, United Airlines, Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic, Delta Airlines are only some of the airlines covering the US-UK routes.
From the UK to the US
Can I travel?
In most cases, no.
The USA has included the UK in the list of countries from where entry is prohibited. This means you won’t be able to travel to the USA from the UK unless you fall in any of the exempt categories.
Only a select few categories of individuals have been excluded from this suspension, so they can still travel to the States. As of 3 August, these are the exempted groups:
- noncitizen nationals of the United States
- lawful permanent residents of the US, and their spouses, minor children, parents*, and siblings**
- noncitizens who are the spouses, parent or legal guardian*, siblings**, or children of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- air and sea crew traveling to the United States on C, D, or C1/D visas
- noncitizens traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus
- noncitizens seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to one of the following visas-
- A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official)
- E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members)
- G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories)
- noncitizens whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement
- noncitizens who are members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their spouses and children
- noncitizens whose entry would further important the United States law enforcement objectives or would be in the national interest, as decided by the US authorities
*provided that his/her U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident child is unmarried and under the age of 21
** provided that both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21
Before arriving in the USA, all passengers, including fully vaccinated travellers, need to get tested within the 3 days preceding the date of travel and carry the negative test certificate.
Passengers must be tested with a viral test that could be either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Rapid tests are also acceptable as long as they are viral tests. This includes:
- reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)
- reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP)
- transcription-mediated amplification (TMA)
- nicking enzyme amplification reaction (NEAR)
- helicase-dependent amplification (HDA)
A test result must be in the form of written documentation, either on printed paper or as an electronic copy.
The documentation must include:
- Type of test (indicating it is a NAAT or antigen test)
- The entity issuing the result (e.g. laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service)
- Specimen collection date. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected within the 3 days before the flight. A positive test result for documentation of recovery from COVID-19 must show the specimen was collected within the 3 months before the flight.
- Information that identifies the person (full name plus at least one other identifier such as date of birth or passport number)
- Test Result
The result can be in a language other than English as long as the airline or aircraft operator is able to confirm the test result and review other required information.
Those who have recovered from the coronavirus in the 3 months preceding travel do not need to get tested. However, they will be asked to present the documentation of recovery, that is:
- proof of a recent positive viral test, and
- a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel
Passengers will also have to sign an attestation in regards to the test report. This attention has to be submitted to the airline before embarkation.
Unvaccinated passengers need to self-quarantine at home for a week. They should take a viral test between 3 to day 5 of arrival,
- Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
- If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
- If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
Fully vaccinated passengers, on the other hand, need not quarantine. However, they too are required to take a viral test between 3 to day 5 of arrival, and if tested positive, stay in quarantine for a week.
Note that you’ll be considered fully vaccinated only if you have completed two weeks from receiving the final dose of your vaccine regimen. If less than 15 days have passed, then you’ll be classified as an unvaccinated passenger and will be subject to quarantine.
All arrivals, irrespective of vaccination status, should self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate/get tested if they develop symptoms. Remember that state and local recommendations/laws are also in play, so make sure you are aware of those.
UK regulations for outbound passengers
The UK government advises limiting travel to essential reasons only but doesn’t enforce any restrictions on leisure holidays. However, wearing masks on flights from England and Scotland is non-negotiable.
You are no longer required to fill the international travel declaration form to travel abroad from England.
Are flights available?
Yes, flights to the USA departing from London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff can now be booked conveniently.
British Airways, Aer Lingus, Lufthansa, Air France and Swiss International are only some of the airlines covering the UK-US routes.