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Despite the success of our vaccination program and the fact that most European countries are now welcoming visitors from the United States, the US government shows no signs of lifting the restrictions that it has in place for non-residents/non-citizens wishing to travel to the United States from the UK, Ireland, and all the countries signed up to the Schengen agreement.
The topic of this travel ban came up in a conversation that I recently had with friends and what quickly became obvious is that a lot of people who are not physically banned from traveling to the United States think that they’re banned because they don’t actually understand how the US travel ban works.
What The Current US Travel Ban Says
While some people seem to think that citizens of certain counties are currently banned from visiting the United States, the Presidential proclamation that suspends or limits entry into the United States make no mention of an individual’s nationality or citizenship – the ban is all about where a person has been in the 14 days leading up to their arrival in the United States and it has nothing to do with nationality.
What this means is that while anyone who has spent any of the 14 days leading up to their day of travel in a banned country may not travel to the United States (unless they’re a US citizen, a legal resident of the United States, or fall into another exempt category), anyone who would normally be allowed entry into the US can still enter as long as they haven’t been in a banned country in the 14 days leading up to travel.
Helping Friends Keep To The Rules
I have friends (H & A) who live in the UK (from where travel to the United States is currently banned) and who would really like to visit us in Los Angeles this summer. Up until now they had assumed that the US travel ban meant that this wasn’t possible, but thanks to the location of their holiday home, a little creative thinking, and a healthy Amex Membership Rewards balance, it looks like they will be getting their wish before the summer is out…and without having to break the bank!
The Solution To The Ban
Essentially, if you live in a country that’s currently on the United States banned list, the key to being able to visit the United States is to make sure that you spend at least 14 days outside of that country (in a non-banned country) before taking your flight to the US.
If you’re flush with cash this isn’t really an issue because all you have to do is to enjoy a 14-night vacation somewhere like the Caribbean before moving on to the United States.
Most people, however, aren’t rolling around in money, so the idea of blowing a stack of cash on a 14-night break (that they probably don’t really want) just so they can then visit the US, is a complete non-starter…especially if they’re traveling as a family. Fortunately for H&A, their vacation home will come to their rescue.
A Fortuitously Located Vacation Home
H & A have a vacation home on the island of Cyprus (in the eastern Mediterranean) and what they had failed to notice (and as I pointed out to them), although the Republic of Cyprus is part of the European Union, it’s not a party to the Schengen Agreement and is therefore not covered by the US travel ban.
What’s more, H & A are fully vaccinated which means that they’re allowed to travel to Cyprus without the need for Covid tests and without the need to self-isolate or to quarantine upon arrival.
By spending 14 days in Cyprus, H & A will make themselves eligible to fly to the United States without any restrictions, and because they will be staying at their vacation home and not in a hotel or resort, the trip won’t cost them a second mortgage.
A New Problem
The Cyprus vacation home, however, is only one part of the solution because as great as it is that Cyprus can act as H & A’s gateway to the US, a stay on the island throws up another issue – how to get to the US?
Most (possibly all) obvious flights routings between Cyprus and the United States involve a layover in a Schengen Area country and even if the layover is only a couple of hours long and even if a passenger never legally enters the Schengen Area country, the US rules are clear – this counts as time spent in a banned country and would prevent H & A from being able to enter the United States.
What this meant was that I had to find a flight routing between Cyprus and the United States that didn’t involve a layover in a banned country and that didn’t cost a fortune (or that H & A could book with whatever miles & points they have at their disposal).
The Flight Solution
A little surprisingly, traveling via the UAE turned out to be the solution.
Although the UAE is on the UK’s “red list” (all arrivals from the UAE to the UK have to endure government-controlled quarantine for a minimum of 10 days upon arrival), it doesn’t appear on the list of countries banned by the United States, and with Emirates offering flights between Cyprus and Dubai and Dubai and Los Angeles, it makes for a good (if out of the way) option for H & A.
With the travel world still nowhere near back to pre-pandemic levels, it wasn’t difficult to find Emirates Business Class awards for travel between Cyprus and Los Angeles so, after making sure that they spend a minimum of 14 full days at their vacation home in Cyprus before they depart, H & A will be making their way from Cyprus to Los Angeles courtesy of 248,000 Amex Points (transferred over to Emirates Skywards in a ratio of 1:1) and a little over €500 in surcharges.
Clearly, my solution for getting H & A to Los Angeles without breaking any rules isn’t one that’s going to work for most people who currently find themselves in a country on the USA’s banned list, but this wasn’t a post written as a “how to” guide.
I enjoyed thinking my way around the rules that H & A had to work within and although they will effectively be traveling over 3,400 miles in the wrong direction before being able to board their flight to the United States, this is a solution that should work pretty well for them.
They get to enjoy 14+ days in a vacation home they love, they’ll have a guaranteed sunny summer (something that would be far from guaranteed if they stayed in the UK), the time they’ll spend running down the clock in Cyprus will almost certainly cost them less than the same period of time would cost them in the UK (Cyprus is a considerably cheaper place to live), and they get to put their Amex points balance to good use as they enjoy a trip they didn’t think they’d be able to take.
All in all, that sounds pretty good to me and, most importantly, H & A are very happy too so I’ll take that to be a job well done 🙂