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How I Helped Friends Negotiate The US Entry Restrictions & Get To Los Angeles (With a 3,400 Mile Detour!)


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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.

Overall

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 🙂

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4 COMMENTS

    • Aside from the fact that THY awards were not available (yes, I checked ), that would involve flying out of “the North” which, if you have a place in the South and you’ve flown into the South, is a less than stellar idea.

  1. Article headline really got my attention. I was hoping you had found a magic solution for them without the 14 day in route “quarantine.” Still, your solution serves them well. Here is how we have solved the problem over the last year. We are in Denmark about half the year. We live in Naples, FL the other half
    Our first time, after a lot of reasearch, we ended up going via Bermuda. That seemed like a good idea as Bermuda is on a fairly direct line from here to there, so to speak. We flew to Gatwick as the Bermuda flight departs from LGW. Spent our days in Bermuda and then flew to Atlanta and down to Ft Myers. All fairly direct. The problem was ground costs. That your friends have a Cypress abode is great. We used AirB&B. Even then, they are pricy in Bermuda. Plus, food is about twice DK prices. I don’t recommend Bermuda as a good solution to this problem.
    Our second trip west [late Febr] we went via Dominican Republic. Again, fairly direct routing. CPH to AMS to MAD where we had to lay over for the night and then direct MAD to Santo Domingo. In better times, there are flights in the morning CPH to MAD that would have gotten us to MAD in time to connect for SDQ. Ground costs in Santo Domingo are 1/3 or less compared to Bermuda.
    I have researched this problem from every angle you can think of, looking for the most efficient combination I could, for time, routes, costs. I have compared the above to flying east bound to the US also. All the while I have to over lay the present and anticipated COVID restrictions and requirements for each destination as well as transit point.
    Your Cypress solution [the stay, and then routing to US as you describe] was one I also researched. Not having a “free” abode, resulted in Cypress not representing any particular advantage for us.
    We have tickets back to the States for mid September and have been hoping that the “quarantine” would be lifted. But, as you note, it doesn’t look like it will be. Therefore, I am back at the research table! Bermuda is out [for us], and we would prefer not to go via Dominican Republic this time [but may end up there].
    Last year we were all set up for Morocco, as it was quite open at that time. It closed a couple of weeks before we were to go there. So, I had to scramble. However, it is again open, though flights are not the best, and the routing is fairly direct. CMN to JFK and connecting to a JFK to RSW flight. Ground costs in Casablanca are only a tad above Santo Domingo.
    We still might end up going via BKK, with our quarantine time spent in BKK and then continue east bound. We’ll see.

  2. It’s interesting to me how few people have any awareness of the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus. Quite incredible given the sorts of arguably similar (and in my opinion usually less malign) things people get excited about elsewhere, and this is occupation and subjugation of a European Union Member State and its citizens.

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