About The Travel Ban

Learn about the history of the travel ban on European and British visitors and why it's wrong.


On March 12, 2020, President Donald Trump announced that amid growing numbers of coronavirus cases throughout Europe, his administration would suspend travel from 26 Schengen Area European nations, the United Kingdom and Ireland. The executive order exempted American citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents and it was sold as a temporary measure meant to allow the country to obtain better control of rising COVID-19 cases at home.

Instead, the travel ban dragged on for months. Families were kept apart. Significant others were separated. Babies were born. Relatives and friends passed away. Weddings, birthdays, graduations and funerals were missed. Meanwhile, businesses were destroyed, and billions of dollars in commercial activity were simply thrown away.

During this time, Americans and U.S. residents were able to travel freely throughout the country, needing only a face covering to board a plane or other public transportation. They were not even required to show a negative COVID-19 test to travel, even at the pandemic’s peak.

As optimism about the success of America’s vaccine campaign increased, President Donald Trump announced in January 2021 that he would rescind the previous travel restrictions on European and British travelers to the U.S. Unfortunately, then-President-elect Joe Biden announced he would upon entering office reinstate the travel ban, further exacerbating the suffering of loved ones kept apart by the rule. Moreover, the Biden administration further restricted the criteria for a National Interest Exception from the COVID19-related travel ban.

In Spring 2021, European nations began announcing that they would end all restrictions on American travelers to Europe. Some would require proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from coronavirus. In Summer 2021, the United Kingdom followed suit, declaring it, too, would allow vaccinated or negative-testing American travelers to visit Britain. As a result, Americans have traveled regularly between the U.S. and Europe, even as Europeans cannot board those same flights to travel between the two hemispheres. And while COVID-19 variants make their way through the U.S., the EU has still declined reestablishing a travel ban on Americans.

Now, European and British leaders are demanding reciprocity from the U.S. government, arguing that, especially in European nations, vaccine efforts are similar or better than those in America. They explained that the human and economic costs are too grave to continue maintaining the ban. Business leaders from around the globe have sounded the alarm of the desperate economic consequences of continued restrictions on travel between Europe and the U.S. Yet, the Biden Administration has ignored all their pleas, as well as the cries of families and loved ones who suffer daily due to this cruel and unscientific ban.

More than 500 days have passed since the enactment of the American travel ban on European visitors. The Biden Administration has thus far been unable to provide any scientific justification for extending the ban, and a growing consensus of bipartisan lawmakers and experts have condemned the White House’s refusal to budge.

Read the full text of the Proclamation here. Read the National Interest Exceptions here.

Why It's Wrong

President Biden’s ban on visitors from Europe and the United Kingdom is both cruel and unscientific.

The travel ban is cruel.

When President Biden reversed the Trump era ban on visitors from seven Muslim majority nations in January 2021, his proclamation read, “[The Trump Executive Orders] have jeopardized our global network of alliances and partnerships and are a moral blight that has dulled the power of our example the world over. And they have separated loved ones, inflicting pain that will ripple for years to come. They are just plain wrong.” We believe this same American standard should be applied to Europeans wishing to visit the United States.

  • For more than 500 days, the travel ban has separated families on both sides of international borders exclusively based on the circumstances of nationality and citizenship.

  • While the travel ban may stop Europeans from entering the U.S., it doesn’t stop life from happening. Babies are born. Relatives pass away. Birthdays, graduations, funerals, and weddings occur. These are important moments that cannot be recreated or experienced fully in a virtual format. Meanwhile, many families kept apart by the travel ban need family support during medical emergencies and cannot receive it.

  • Family relationships have been unjustly strained by this travel ban. Many pregnant women were denied the support of their partner during both pregnancy and delivery. Similarly, fathers miss the birth of their child and, in some cases, more than a year and a half of their child’s life. Meanwhile, some children go without a mother or father in their lives, often leaving one parent with the responsibility of caring for their children alone.

  • People have lost parents, brothers or sisters. They have not been able to say goodbye, be present at the funeral, and properly mourn together with their loved ones.

  • Unmarried couples, including those awaiting visas to get married, have been kept apart for nearly a year and a half, putting undue burdens on those relationships.

  • Individuals who are residing in the U.S. on visas have been essentially kept prisoner within the country’s borders, unable to return to Europe to visit relatives without jeopardizing their visas and their ability to return. These family arrangements often include children, who are in the U.S. by virtue only of their parent or parents’ employment and kept separated from grandparents, extended family and friends.

  • Americans have spent their summer vacation in Europe, while many of their international colleagues and friends have not seen their immediate families in two years.

  • No matter the individual circumstances, separation caused by the travel ban can often result in severe mental illness amid the grief already sustained due to the travel ban and the continued uncertainty regarding when they may be reunited with their loved ones. To date, the Biden Administration has provided neither a timeline nor necessary pandemic milestones to meet in order for the country to reopen its borders to Europe.

The travel ban is unscientific.

When pressed about the continued ban on visitors from the U.K. and Europe, Biden Administration officials have repeatedly referenced their desire to “follow the science” in dictating COVID-19 policy. But restrictions on visitors from Europe defy science and totally lack evidence to substantiate this draconian policy.

  • The travel ban, like many other COVID-19 restrictions, was meant to serve as a temporary solution for the U.S. to fortify its health systems and medical supplies. It was never intended to last more than a year and a half.

  • The travel ban applies to only a select few countries, nearly all of which are in Europe, where COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are far fewer than America. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom and many European nations continue to vaccinate its citizens and residents at similar or better rates than the American population. It is abundantly clear that Europeans and Britons pose no legitimate public health risk to the American public.

  • Currently, individuals from around the world can enter the U.S. directly, while those from travel ban nations can enter the U.S. if they spend 14 days in another country, like Turkey or Mexico, that have much lower vaccination rates and much higher case rates than Europe. Even as European travelers are forced to spend weeks waiting in other countries before entering America, the U.S. does not and has not required Americans returning from overseas to quarantine after arrival and has not considered such a requirement for foreign nationals.

  • The travel ban has some exceptions (American citizens, green card holders and certain non-immigrant visa holders [political, diplomatic, student, etc.]). But there are no exceptions for the majority of non-immigrant visa holders who legally work in the U.S. This is discriminatory because the chances to spread COVID-19 aren't contingent upon the type of visa some holds or their nationality.

  • At the same time, Americans wishing to return to the U.S. from their travels in Europe need only to show an airline employee a negative test in order to board the plane. Europeans, including those vaccinated, are not allowed to show the same negative test to fly to the U.S.

  • A July 2020 report from POLITICO indicated that Jeffrey Zients, the Biden Administration’s COVID Response Director who is neither a doctor nor public health expert, has kept the travel ban in place as the result of political resistance to proof of vaccination proposals, not scientific evidence.

  • Some Biden Administration officials have pointed to the Delta variant as an excuse to maintain the travel ban. But it has long been in the U.S., and many experts believe it has already made its way through the population, citing epidemiological graphs of the Delta variant’s movements through the U.K. In fact. Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, M.D., says that following the Delta variant, the U.S. will enter into the “endemic” phase of COVID-19.

  • Many allied nations are requiring any of the following items to board a domestic or international flight: proof of previous COVID-19 infection recovery, a current negative test and/or proof of vaccination. Face coverings are mandated on flights around the globe, and airplanes have reliable systems to maintain health and safety onboard, including air filtration. Any of these items, when coupled with masking, provide ample assurance to the nation that its visitors are not a threat to its people. There is no epidemiological uniqueness to the American situation that would preclude it from imposing any or all of these measures. It is only a matter of political will.