The European Union Reopens its Borders, but Bars Travelers from the United States

06 July 2020 Coronavirus Resource Center:Back to Business Blog
Authors: Roy J. Barquet Vaitiari Rodriguez

What countries are permitted to enter the EU?

On July 1, 2020, the European Union [EU] issued recommendations to its member states to lift restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU for foreign travelers from the following 15 countries: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and China [provided China’s reciprocity]. The list of authorized countries also includes the European microstates of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican.

The EU will review the list of admissible countries every two weeks and will continue to lift travel restrictions [totally or partially], as well as to reintroduce restrictions for specific countries according to changes in epidemiological situation.

Are U.S. travelers barred from entering EU countries?

The EU barred travelers from the U.S. from entering the EU area.  For purposes of the travel ban, the EU includes 30 countries: 26 EU member states1 and the four Schengen Associated States: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.  Although an EU member state, Ireland does not currently apply the EU travel restrictions.

Foreign travelers’ country of residence, not their nationality, is the determining factor for their ability to travel to EU countries.  As such, the EU travel restrictions apply to both U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. While the travel restrictions depend on the foreign traveler’s country of residence, the requirements for the issuance of visas to travel to the EU continues to depend on nationality/citizenship. For example, if a foreign traveler resides in a country where restrictions have been lifted, but is a citizen of a visa-required country, he/she must apply at the consulate of the member state to which he/she wishes to travel to, in his/her country of residence.

Who is exempt from EU travel restrictions?

The following categories of travelers are exempt from the temporary EU travel restrictions:

  • EU citizens and their family members;
  • Long-term EU residents and their family members; and
  • Travelers with “an essential function or need,” including the following categories:
    • Healthcare professionals, health researchers, and elderly care professionals
    • Frontier workers
    • Seasonal workers in agriculture
    • Transport personnel
    • Diplomats, staff of international organizations, individuals invited by international organizations, military personnel, humanitarian aid workers, and civil protection personnel
    • Passengers in transit, including passengers travelling from a non-EU country to another non-EU country
    • Passengers travelling for imperative family reasons
    • Seafarers
    • Persons in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons [i.e. asylum seekers]
    • Students starting or continuing their studies in the EU in the academic year 2020/2021
    • Highly-qualified workers who are needed to contribute to the EU’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

Are United Kingdom citizens exempt from EU travel restrictions?

For purposes of the travel restrictions, citizens from the United Kingdom [UK] are regarded as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period [December 31, 2020].  As a result, UK citizens and their family members are currently exempt from the temporary travel restrictions.

What is the criteria to determine the countries for which the current travel restrictions should be lifted?

The criteria to determine the countries for which the EU should terminate travel restrictions include “the epidemiological situation and containment measures,” as well as economic and social factors.  Regarding the epidemiological situation, third countries must meet the following requirements:

  • Number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100,000 inhabitants must be close to or below the EU average [as of June 15, 2020].
  • Stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days.
  • Evaluation of the overall response to COVID-19 [i.e. testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting], the reliability of the information and, if needed, “the total average score for International Health Regulations (IHR). Information provided by EU delegations.”

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1 The 27 member countries of the EU include: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. 

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