Social media information is now a mandatory requirement for ESTA and visa applications for the USA. This latest change in visa policy is part of US President Donald Trump’s plan to set a “uniform baseline for screening and vetting standards and procedures”. In the past, only travelers who were deemed to need additional screening, such
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Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the United States of America has introduced a number of travel restrictions and issued guidelines to its own citizens returning home from abroad.
The novel coronavirus, named COVID-19, originated in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province and has quickly spread to many countries around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a pandemic, which it defines as “the worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity”.
Over 32,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the US alone.
Governments around the world have taken measures to try and control the coronavirus outbreak and limit the spread of the disease.
The USA has banned the entry of all travelers who have visited certain countries within the last 14 days, including most of Europe.
US nationals, official residents, and their immediate family members may return home from these countries, but can only fly into certain designated airports. The must then self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor their health once they arrive back on American soil.
Anyone entering the United States from other high-risk countries are also asked to self-isolate and self-monitor for at least 2 weeks.
The US Department of State has raised its alert to Global Level 4 Health Advisory. This advises American citizens against any and all travel, particularly to other countries.
US nationals who live in the United States but are currently overseas are recommended to return home immediately if commercial departure is still possible. US nationals who live in other sovereign states are advised to avoid international travel.
The US Travel Ban and Who it Affects
The majority of travelers are still allowed to enter the United States of America, providing they have the correct documentation. Foreign nationals planning a trip to the US should consult global visa information to check the visa requirements for their nationality.
However, foreign nationals who have visited certain countries in the 2 weeks prior to their arrival in the US are prohibited from entering. These countries are:
- The United Kingdom (UK)
- The Schengen Area of Europe and microstates sharing open borders with it
The first restriction imposed by the US was on travelers who had recently visited China.
China was the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. The coronavirus was first identified in the badly-hit Hubei province in the city of Wuhan, which has experienced the most cases in the world so far.
The number of cases in Iran and Italy quickly rose and the outbreak spread to many other European countries, including France and Spain.
On March 13, US President Trump announced that travelers who had been to any of the Schengen member states or the microstates of Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City in the last 14 days would not be permitted to travel to the United States.
The Schengen Area consists of:
- The Czech Republic
- The Netherlands
The microstates of Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City are not officially part of the Schengen Area, but have open borders with France (Monaco) or Italy (San Marino and Vatican City), making them de facto part of the region. Travelers who have visited these microstates are also currently banned from entering the US.
The announcement on March 13 made it clear that the travel ban did not apply to travelers from the UK or the Republic of Ireland.
However, this decision as quickly reversed. From March 17, foreign nationals who had recently visited the UK or Ireland were added to the list.
Travel Advisory for Other High-Risk Countries
The US government has only completely banned those travelers who have visited the countries listed above in the last 14 days.
However, a number of other countries have reported a high number of cases of coronavirus. While travelers who have visited these countries are still allowed to enter the States, they are advised to self-quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.
These countries include:
- South Korea
US nationals have been advised by Donald Trump’s government not to visit these countries unless absolutely necessary.
Self-quarantine advice is as follows:
- Stay at home for 14 days
- Monitor your health, taking your temperature with a thermometer and checking for fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher)
- Practice social distancing—maintain at least 6 feet/2 meters between yourself and others, including when at home
It is likely that the situation will continue to change as the coronavirus pandemic progresses. It is advisable to check worldwide travel news to keep updated on the US travel ban.
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Not every traveler heading to the United States of America needs a visa. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA for the US provides another option for eligible visitors. Introduced in 2009, the ESTA is an online system that allows travelers to register their details ahead of their trip to the United States. For