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Travellers from Europe to US face tougher Covid test restrictions

All travellers from Europe to the United States now have to provide a negative Covid test before boarding the plane.

 sign promotes a COVID-19 testing location located inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles
US imposes new Covid test rule on travellers from Europe. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP

Travellers from Europe to the United States are from December 6th required to provide a negative Covid test before boarding the plane, under new rules announced by the White House last week.

The White House said that all travellers to the US – vaccinated or not – would need to provide a negative Covid test carried out within one day of departure. The rules took effect at 5:01am GMT (or 6:01am in Denmark) on Monday and apply to all non-citizens and non-US residents.

Previously, vaccinated travellers from Europe could present a negative test result obtained within three days of their time of departure. For unvaccinated travellers the requirement was a negative test within one day.

The new one-day testing requirement would apply equally to US citizens as well as foreign nationals arriving in the US. It applies to any traveller over the age of 2.

The pre-travel period for which a test is valid has been set as 1 day rather than 24 hours.

According to the CDC: “For example, if your flight is at 1pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday.”

The US has accepted both the antigenic and PCR tests for the purpose of travel.

The US, which reported its first case of the Omicron variant on Wednesday last week, said on Monday cases have now been found in 16 states. But it has stopped short of imposing mandatory quarantine on arrivals.

“Our doctors believe tightening testing requirements for pre-departure will help catch more cases, potential cases of people who may be positive and inside the country,” a senior administration official last week told CNBC. “And so now is the right time to do it. And we can implement it very quickly.”

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TRAVEL NEWS

EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Two major changes that were due to come into force in 2022 for travellers entering the EU - an enhanced passport scanning system and the introduction of a €7 visa for tourists - have been delayed for a year.

EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Although both the EES and ETIAS schemes are still due to be introduced in the European Commission has pushed back the start dates for both until 2023.

It comes amid a chaotic summer for travel in Europe, with airports struggling with staff shortages and strikes while some crossings from the UK to France have been hit by long delays as extra post-Brexit checks are performed during the peak holiday season. 

The two separate changes to travel in the EU and Schengen zone were originally due to come into effect in 2020, but were delayed because of the pandemic. Now the EES system is expected to come into effect in May 2023, while ETIAS will come into effect in November 2023. 

The EES – Entry and Exit System – is essentially enhanced passport scanning at the EU’s borders and means passports will not only be checked for ID and security, but also for entry and exit dates, in effect tightening up enforcement of the ’90 day rule’ that limits the amount of time non-EU citizens can spend in the Bloc without having a visa.

It will not affect non-EU citizens who live in an EU country with a residency permit or visa.

There have been concerns that the longer checks will make transiting the EU’s external borders slower, a particular problem at the UK port of Dover, where the infrastructure is already struggling to cope with enhanced post-Brexit checks of people travelling to France.

You can read a full explanation of EES, what it is and who is affects HERE.

The ETIAS system will apply to all non-EU visitors to an EU country – eg tourists, second-home owners, those making family visits and people doing short-term work.

It will involve visitors registering in advance for a visa and paying a €7 fee. The visa will be valid for three years and can be used for multiple trips – essentially the system is very similar to the ESTA visa required for visitors to the USA. 

Residents of an EU country who have a residency card or visa will not need one.

You can read the full details on ETIAS, how it works and who it affects HERE.

Both systems will apply only to people who do not have citizenship of an EU country – for example Brits, Americans, Australians and Canadians – and will be used only at external EU/Schengen borders, so it won’t be required when travelling between France and Germany, for example. 

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