The Council of the European Union (EU) has issued an updated list of third countries for which travel restrictions into the EU may be lifted. The United States is included on the list for the first time since the EU began these recommendations to its member states in 2020. The recommendations provide for a gradual lifting of COVID-19 related restrictions, including waivers for fully vaccinated individuals.
It is important to understand that EU member states are not obligated to follow the recommendations and the EU cannot enforce these recommendations. However, EU states use the Council’s recommendations as a guideline, and may choose to lift the restrictions progressively. Schengen associated countries, which include Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, also use the EU recommendations on travel from countries outside the region.
The criteria used to determine the third countries recommended for the lifting of restrictions was updated in May 2021 in response to the ongoing worldwide vaccination campaigns. At the same time, the amendments account for the possible risks posed by new variants by creating an “emergency brake mechanism” to quickly react to the emergence of a variant of interest or concern in a third country. This means travelers need to remain alert to news on variant strains and check for any renewed restrictions in the destination they intended to visit. The EU reviews the list every two weeks.
Besides the United States, other countries listed in the EU recommendation are Albania, Australia, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Republic of North Macedonia, Rwanda, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and China subject to confirmed reciprocity. The EU also recommends lifting restrictions for special administrative regions of China Hong Kong and Macao, pending a reciprocal lifting of restrictions. Taiwan is also included on the list.
Several European countries have already lifted some restrictions for travelers, including Spain, Croatia, and Iceland. SCI members can check on specific destinations on the US State Departments Travel website: www.travel.state.gov. Click on International Travel then on Country Information. Enter the name of the country and then click on READ MORE in the Travel Advisory section. On this page, find the link to the US Embassy’s COVID-19 page. Click on this and you will find information on restrictions and entry and exit requirements.