Holiday Travel Restrictions for Christmas 2020

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As Christmas fast approaches, many countries around the world continue to limit travel both within their territory and across their borders as they endure the second wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

People planning to return home for the holidays should be aware of the travel restrictions for Christmas and New Year and plan their festive periods accordingly. In some cases, entry to certain countries may be prohibited, while others require inbound travelers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or that the individual self-isolate for a period after arrival.

Since regulations are constantly changing as the situation evolves, it is useful to stay updated by regularly checking this list of COVID-19 travel restrictions by country.

Christmas Travel Restrictions for the US

As it stands, many travelers can currently enter the United States of America. However, there are entry bans for those who have been in certain countries within the previous 14 days. These include:

  • All European Union (EU) member countries
  • All European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member countries
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Iran
  • The UK

Even from these countries, there are various people who are exempt from the travel ban, including certain visa holders, members of the US Armed Forces, and individuals who have been given exemption by the US Government.

US nationals, permanent residents of the United States, and close family members of either of these are also permitted to return to the US from any location, including those under the travel ban.

A number of US states have implemented rules for incoming travelers, such as health forms and quarantine requirements.

Cases of COVID-19 are expected to rise across the holiday period and individuals planning to journey to the US are warned that the government may introduce new travel restrictions for New Year and Christmas.

Canada: Travel Restrictions during Christmas

Christmas travel restrictions in Canada will vary depending on the province. Ontario and Alberta have said that visiting other households will not be allowed; anyone in these provinces over the holidays can only celebrate Christmas with the people they live with.

Quebec has suggested a “moral contract” in which gatherings would be permitted and people could travel to see their families for 4 days during Christmas as long as they quarantined themselves for a week beforehand and a week after coming into contact with others.

In terms of international travel, the majority of non-Canadian nationals and residents arriving from the US may not enter Canada until 21 December (unless they fall into certain exempted categories).

Travelers may not enter Canada from a country other than the US until 21 January 2021, unless they are a Canadian citizen, resident, a family member of a Canadian citizen or resident, or another exempted case (see the full list of travel restrictions).

International travelers must comply with the current regulations, including quarantine requirements and the need to submit their information before boarding a flight to Canada over Christmas.

Holiday Travel Restrictions in Australia

International travel to Australia has been prohibited for most of the pandemic and this is set to continue over the Christmas period and into 2021.

Only the following groups of travelers will be allowed to enter Australia during the holidays:

  • Australian nationals
  • Permanent residents of Australia
  • Immediate family members of Australian nationals or permanent residents
  • New Zealand nationals residing in Australia (and their immediate family)
  • Individuals arriving from New Zealand on a Safe Travel Zone flight who have not left New Zealand in the previous 14 days
  • Visa holders who have been granted exemption from the travel ban

In many cases, these permitted travelers must undergo quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Australia over the festive period.

Internally, some areas of Australia are planning to open for travel over Christmas. Western Australia is set to reopen its borders to New South Wales and Victoria on Tuesday 8 December, with restrictions only remaining with South Australia (SA).

Airlines are once again offering flights to Perth, and it is expected that people will be able to travel to see their families over Christmas without worrying about quarantine.

SA is still categorized as “medium risk” and restrictions are still in place in some parts of the country. However, in general, Australia’s states and territories look set to relax restrictions for the holiday season.

Travel in New Zealand Over Christmas

New Zealand’s borders are expected to remain closed over the holidays. The country has enforced a travel ban throughout the pandemic and has largely kept the coronavirus pandemic contained as a result.

Only the following exceptions may currently enter New Zealand, and this will likely remain the case for Christmas and New Year:

  • Nationals of New Zealand
  • Permanent residents of New Zealand
  • Partners and children of New Zealand nationals and residents who have a visa based on this relationship

Travelers in these categories who arrive in New Zealand over the holiday period will be subject to medical screening and 14 days in quarantine.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that Santa Claus has clearance to deliver presents to New Zealand for Christmas.

UK Travel Restrictions for the Christmas Period

Travel within the UK has been limited by the tier system, with rules varying between tiers.

However, the tier restrictions will be briefly lifted 23-27 December to allow people to travel to see friends and family for Christmas. Households in the same “Christmas bubble” (no more than 3 households) will be permitted to mix.

Individuals will be allowed to travel between areas in different tiers and even to another nation of the UK (e.g. from England to Scotland) to see family or return home within these dates.

Travel to and from Northern Ireland will be permitted between 22 and 28 December.

As far as international travel goes, it is possible to enter the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from any location with the correct visa or travel authorization.

However, the UK maintains a “travel corridor” list of countries that are deemed to be safe. Only passengers arriving from these locations can avoid quarantine on arrival; all other international travelers must self-isolate for 14 days.

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