Can someone explain to me the confusing covid travel rules in the USA?

Ask: I am fully vaccinated and will be traveling to the United States next Tuesday, November 16th. I am very confused with what is needed. Navigating through different web pages with conflicting information is exhausting. I would love to hear your expert opinion, especially since you went through the process.


Answer: As I have said many times during the pandemic, definitive information on coronavirus travel restrictions comes from the government imposing the rules, not from any other source.

I successfully entered the United States on Monday, November 8, the first day British travelers were allowed entry. In my experience, and that of other UK visitors I have interviewed, the rules are reasonably clear and compliance for a fully vaccinated traveler is simple.

As with arrivals in the UK, the first line screening of travelers to the USA is carried out by the airlines, which carry out pre-screening. The American authorities ask them to assess their eligibility on the basis of two criteria.

First, a test before departure. As you will be traveling on Tuesday, you will have to do one during the day, or on Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Self-administered tests are not accepted in the US (unless video-supervised by a certified US provider), and I highly recommend a quick and relatively inexpensive lateral flow test on the day of travel at your airport departure.

Next, you must prove your vaccination status. The NHS Covid clearance letter is good for this, but if you don’t already have one, you’re unlikely to have time to order a copy online to have it mailed to you. Instead, you can download your status from the NHS website or get digital proof on the NHS app.

You must also complete a form called “CCombined Disclosure and Attestation of Passengers in the United States of America– I created a short link to this one, Paper required; you can fill in the details online, but you cannot sign it, so you must print it out. At first glance, it is a confusing shape. But fully vaccinated adults should check Section 1, Question 1, and Section 2, Question 1. For unvaccinated children aged 2 to 17 traveling with them, the relevant parts are Section 1, Question 4; section 2, question 2, second option; section 4, all boxes in the shaded section. Then, name, signature and date on page 5 of the form.

Upon arrival, U.S. Customs and Border Protection may request proof of testing and/or vaccination. My NHS Covid pass letter was scrutinized by officers, although that was because it arrived overland without prior checking and possibly had novelty value.

People I’ve spoken to say they got through passport control quickly and easily, and I anticipate the same will happen to you.

In New York, closed restaurants and premises require proof of at least one dose of vaccine


Ask: This weekend, I’m flying to New York for six weeks in the northeastern United States. There is a huge expectation after two years of waiting. Have you encountered any problems while using your NHS Covid Pass to access New York locations, since they have their own system, the Excelsior pass?

If so, what should I do to ensure my experience is as smooth as possible?

james d

Answer: This week I was in upstate New York, but not in New York. This single state is a prime example of how fragmented things are in America. In upstate New York, wearing a mask is optional for anyone fully vaccinated, and I was not screened upon entering the premises. In America’s largest city, however, things are very different: New York’s COVID rules state that, for indoor dining rooms, museums, aquariums, zoos and performance halls, “persons over 12 years old must show identification and proof that they have received at least one dose of the covid-19 vaccine.

the Excelsior pass that he mentions is actually a statewide plan that promises: “Secure evidence of an individual’s Covid-19 vaccination record and negative test results.” But I have not been able to identify a way for foreign visitors to access the program.

So how is vaccination status demonstrated? Well, in the US everything is pretty analog. Unlike the European Union, where the EU’s successful covid digital pass is ubiquitous, there is no nationally consistent system in the United States, even though New York State has tried to promote such a system. Plan) based on Excelsior pass.

It should suffice to bring your NHS covid pass letter, which is conveniently in English. You can get one from the NHS in the UK country where you live. Also always carry your passport with you, as some people will want to see it, as well as your proof of vaccination.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines considers the UK to be a relatively high risk


Ask: My airline said in an email this morning: ‘St. Vincent authorities have provided new guidance that rapid PCR and self-administered tests will not be accepted as valid evidence.’ The Saint Vincent government website does not mention it. My test provider (Collinson) says the “rapid” and standard PCR tests are the same. Finding someone to talk to at the airline to clear things up for me takes longer than flying across the Atlantic. An idea?

“The Old Contractor”

Answer: As I’ve tried to do throughout the coronavirus pandemic: rather than relying on UK government or airline interpretations of what those very complicated covid rules might be, it’s always best to go straight from the source. In your case, it’s the St. Vincent National Emergency Management Organization.

I assume that you have been vaccinated against the coronavirus and therefore the latest “protocol for the entry of fully vaccinated travelers into St. Vincent and the Grenadines” applies to you. It was posted 10 days ago. The UK is considered relatively high risk, and therefore “you must arrive with a negative covid-19 (RT-PCR) test result taken no later than 72 hours or three days before arrival”. That term “three days” isn’t helpful, so to be sure, I’d suggest getting a PCR test comfortably within the 72-hour window (and keep in mind that it’s based on when you arrive in St. Vincent, not when you leave the UK).

It is also unnecessary that nothing specifically related to PCR testing is mentioned. I am not aware of a “rapid PCR” test as an independent entity. Some PCR tests are indeed fast (I got a result in 103 minutes after a recent test at Heathrow), but they all need to be tested to the same quality standards.

It is possible that at some point in the bureaucratic chain, “self-directed” and “fast” were confused. It appears that a decision has been made ruling out self-administered tests instead of those performed by a medical professional. Unsurprisingly, this charming Caribbean country is the latest to drop self-administered testing; they have room for accidental inaccuracies (I can’t dab like a pro) and, sorry to say, deliberate mischief, with the possibility of phishing.

I would never recommend a self-administered PCR test before departure, even where permitted, due to the risk of a delayed result. The best is a proper test at the airport. Sorry if you have already booked a different test; I do my best to entice travelers to book at the last minute because the rules change so often and suddenly.

Children’s UK passports must have three months to return from the EU

((Image: Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing Street))

Ask: I have trouble understanding the passport rules. My daughter’s passport was issued on March 24, 2017 and expires on August 24, 2022. We are returning from France to the UK on December 26. It easily has more than six months left, but if it has just under three months left from the date of issue, should it be renewed or not?

Name provided

AnswerNote: For UK children’s passports, there is only one post-Brexit catch: the requirement to return from the European Union (and the wider Schengen area, including Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) with at least three months remaining on the document. Your daughter’s passport is therefore valid for travel to and from the EU for travel ending before 24 May 2022.

Your confusion is completely understandable, as the misunderstanding of post-Brexit passport rules has been fueled by a number of organizations that are expected to do better since the end of the transition phase on December 31, 2020.

At root of the problem is the fact that some UK adult passports have been issued for up to 10 years and nine months, under a laudable system that added unspent time from the old travel document to the validity of the new. As long as the UK was part of the EU, it didn’t matter. But the decision to leave the European Union and the Brexit deal that was brokered have made the UK a “third country” to which stricter rules apply: a passport is considered expired when 10 years pass have elapsed since the date of issue. (It was oddly described as a “European passport problem” by some pro-Brexit newspapers, even though it was an inevitable consequence of the exit deal.)

Obviously, children’s passports are not affected, since the maximum validity is five years and nine months. But the UK government – which released a host of misleading claims about the validity of passports after Brexit – created a ‘passport check’ service which gave false negatives about the validity of children’s passports until that I finally convinced officials to fix it in July.

The other lie that some organizations (including airlines like Ryanair) have also spread is that UK travelers to the EU must have at least six months on their passport when entering. It has never been like this, and it puzzles me that this “rule” is so prevalent.

Just in case, your daughter’s passport can also be used for travel to and from the United States – and many other countries – until its expiration date. But there are some countries, for example Egypt, which require six months to stay on the date of entry (or sometimes exit) from these countries.

Email your questions to or tweet @simoncalder

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