As we know, the disruption to travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing this autumn.
So, here are the facts as we understand them, and as they exist on 2 September 2020 if you are considering travel to, or from the USA. Please also see the link to the current official UK guidance and US guidance relating to COVID-19.
Can I visit the USA legally?
The UK Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to the US.
Furthermore, as of 16 March 2020, it has not been possible for most British nationals to enter the USA if they’ve lived in or visited the UK, Ireland, the Schengen zone of Europe, Iran, Brazil or China within the last 14 days. This prohibition doesn’t apply to US citizens and permanent residents of the US, certain visa holders and family members of those who are entitled to travel. UN staff and diplomats can also travel to the US. If you are a visa-holder on the permitted list, you can enter and re-enter the US as long as your visa is valid.
In certain other, very limited circumstances, such as a business matter or humanitarian need, you may qualify for an exception to enter the US. In such a case, you’ll need to contact the US Embassy to find out if you can travel.
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Will I need to quarantine when I get there?
If you are allowed to travel to the US, you will be subject to a screening process, given COVID-19 guidance and will have to home-quarantine for 14 days. Here is a fact sheet from the Department of Homeland Security. There are restricted number of airports to which you can travel.
In addition, if you move between states while you are within the US, you should visit the websites of the relevant state governments, as each state has their own rules regarding COVID-19 measures, for example the wearing of masks in public. You can find contact details of state websites here.
As an example of the current rules applicable in Florida, here’s a summary of the restrictions in place:
- Social distancing rules apply, and face masks are recommended where social distancing isn’t possible
- Businesses and restaurants may offer outdoor tables and diners may eat indoors provided the restaurant isn’t more than 50% full
- You can drink at a bar, provided you maintain an appropriate distance, but this doesn’t apply to nightclubs. Furthermore, at certain nightclubs and bars, the sale of alcohol is not allowed
- Shops and gyms are open subject to social distancing rules, and businesses like beauticians and massage parlours are open but subject to special rules
- Theatres, cinemas, bowling alleys and arcades can open subject to 50% capacity
- Amusement parks have to be endorsed by the local authority in order to open
- Visits to nursing homes are not allowed
- Museums and libraries may be open if permitted locally
Will I need to quarantine when I return?
Yes, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days after your return.
You must also complete an online form before you arrive in the UK, and when you arrive at the border you need to show a printed copy of the document attached to your confirmation email and a copy of the document on your phone.
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Are flights still going?
Flights are still available to the US. For example, flights are available to New York, Boston, New York, Florida and Orlando throughout the autumn, with prices starting from around £190 for flights to New York.
If I’m buying property, what can I do in USA – e.g. can I view properties or see a lawyer?
Whether you can visit properties or see a lawyer will depend on the local rules. If you have already quarantined, and need to go out and about for purposes of your house search, you should check your local state’s rules for COVID-19 protective measures in effect. You’ll likely need to wear a mask during your visit, and larger gatherings may be prohibited or restricted.
Whether you can visit properties or see a lawyer will depend on the local rules.
What are the prospects for property prices in the US, post-COVID-19?
According to this recent article in the New York Times, certain areas within the US have a very buoyant housing market, particularly in the suburbs and outer areas of large cities, as people move out of densely-populated areas as a result of COVID-19. There’s evidence also that new buyers are keen to get on the property ladder, for fear of higher prices if they wait. According to the article, a recent survey indicated that house prices rose 45% from February 2012 to May 2020, although the article does sound a note of caution as home prices can go down as well as up!
What are the prospects for further restrictions and lockdowns in the US?
The situation in the US continues to give cause to concern, with positive cases greater than 5% in more than 35 US states. Some, such as Florida, California and Texas have more than three times this number.