We love travelling to the USA. We have travelled to America several times in the past but as it has finally reopened post Covid restrictions this is our first time having to navigate the absolute minefield of requirements to enter.
I am going to try and simplify it for you here based on our experiences, on us not being US residents and information is correct as of 21st November 2021.
As we are not US residents we are only allowed to enter if we are double vaccinated (>14 days before you travel) with an approved vaccine. These are listed as the AstraZeneca, BIBP/Sinopharm, Covishield, Janssen, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines.
You also require an ESTA (basically a travel visa, more below), your covid vaccine certificate, a negative supervised test and an Attestation form.
Let’s go through all those requirements individually
First in the process of paperwork, you want to apply for your ESTA. ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). You can do this online here. You DO NOT need to pay anyone to do this for you, there are companies who will try and tell you they can fast track you application etc but it is a really simply form, completed online that you can do yourself.
It is $14 to apply, this consists of a $4 non refundable processing payment and $10 for your approved ESTA, if for any reason it is declined you will get your $10 refunded.
Ours were approved within a few hours and even when we travelled in 2019 they were approved within about 24 hours.
I think we have all become used to having to do covid tests for all sorts of reasons. But having to do a SUPERVISED covid test was a first for us.
The requirement for travelling to the USA is that your covid test is supervised (in person or over video link) by a health professional.
For ours we used Project Screen (you’ll get 7.7% cash back if you use Top Cash Back) they were £27 and their tests are supervised by AZOVA.
Booking the test was fairly straightforward, although you do have to put all your details in twice, once on the Project Screen site and again on AZOVA which was a bit of the pain when there are so many of us.
We did the tests over video call, they can see you but you can’t see them and you can all do your tests at once, or do them individually depending on what suits you.
You do have to book everyones time slot individually but I just put everyone to the same time and they were able to pull up everyones details for us to complete them without having to dial back in for each one.
They can talk you through how to do the test if required or they are happy to just let you get on it while they supervise. It took around 20 minutes for us to do all our 6 tests.
You then need to photograph them all and upload them on to project screen, you will then be emailed your fit to fly certificate. They state it will be with you within 3 hours but ours took almost 4.
The Project Screen website was actually displaying a message that we hadn’t yet uploaded our results (even though we had) but our results eventually arrived so this is obviously an error their end.
You can then print these off, or show them on your phone, we decided it would be better to print everything off due to how much paperwork we would need, it was more peace of mind to have everything in front of us.
Check in is super slow. With all the extra paperwork required this is a much slower process than normal. If you are flying with Virgin you can upload all the adult tests and Vaccine proofs but if you are travelling with under 18s / unvaccinated travellers you will still need to present all this at the check in desk.
We were in the queue for over an hour and 15 minutes before we were actually called to the front on a last call for our flight so you really do need to allow lots of extra time for your check in.
These forms can be completed online for fully vaccinated passengers, or they must printed off for unvaccinated under 18s.
Again it was really straightforward and mainly just a declaration that you are fit and well to travel and have been vaccinated (or have done a covid test for under 18s)
It does state on the forms its for 2 to 17 years old but we were made to complete one for Oscar before we could board the flight and he’s only 22 months, even though that consisted of just writing his name at the top of the form and ticking no boxes as none of them applied to him. Fortunately they had blank ones ready at the desk.
If you have travelled at any point since 2001 you’ll already be aware there are several restrictions around travelling with liquids. If possible it is best to pack all liquids in your hold luggage (with the exception of lighters which are not allowed to be stored in hold luggage)
Any liquids that you do need to take with you in your hand luggage need to be under 100ml and less that 1000ml in total, they must all fit into a 20x20cm bag and only 1 bag per person is allowed. Store these in a clear plastic zip lock bag ready for security. There are some exemptions for certain things such as baby products and medication you can read more about it here.
You will also need to go through a security scan so avoiding wearing belts, buckles, braces and any other metal will help you get through quicker and avoid you needed further searches. Myself, Holly and Lottie were pulled aside for a further full body scan and Lottie was also drug wiped. These additional security searched took less than 5 minutes so do not worry if you are selected for these.
Also check your airlines hand luggage allowance – the size and weight allowed varies for each one and you don’t want to be caught out with extra charges – some also allow you to check in hand luggage at no extra cost if you won’t need it on the flight (for example if you were travel on a hand luggage only allowance) so it is worth asking when you check in.
You can read more about the restrictions on Gov.UK
Masks are the bane of my life at the moment, as a glasses wearer I have been unsuccessful in finding a mask that is suitable for me that doesn’t steam up my glasses. So I actually spend most of my time touching my face / mask / glasses trying to be able to see and probably spreading more germs than if I wasn’t wearing it! But masks are required within the airport, on your flight and also at Orlando airport for everyone over 2
I hope you have found this post useful and are feeling more confident if you are travelling to the USA.
We can’t wait to start our holiday and you will find lots more posts during our time in America.
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