CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s been a long 20 months for families separated by travel restrictions due to COVID-19 but now foreign travelers from a long list of countries, including China, Canada, Mexico and Europe, are allowed back in.
“Today is a big moment, a very emotional moment I think for a lot of folks,” said Stephen Clark, director of commercial development at Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, the 28 European countries that were barred made up 37% of overseas visitors in 2019.
The lifting of the travel ban does come with some rules. Foreign travelers entering the U.S. are required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 with one of the shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization. You can find that list here. Those travelers also have to have proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of their flight to the states.
There are limited exceptions that allow non-vaccinated foreigners to enter the U.S. such as people under 18 and those facing an emergency.
Clark said it’s important to note U.S. citizens traveling internationally are not required to be vaccinated when they come back into the country. They do, however, have to get tested still.
“So, for those U.S. citizens that are vaccinated, when you’re traveling back into the U.S., you’ll need to have a negative COVID test within 24 hours of your departure back to the United States,” he explained. “If you are an unvaccinated U.S. citizen traveling back into the U.S., you have to have that same negative test within 72 hours of departure.”
That’s a change to the rules that were previously in place, which is why Clark encourages travelers to stay close to their airlines since they are the ones keeping track of the rules and regulations on behalf of the government.
Clark said he IS expecting a significant increase in demand for flights from these formerly banned countries. As the reopening takes effect, carriers are increasing flights between the United Kingdom and U.S. by 21% this month over the last month, according to data from travel and analytics firm Cirium.
Nationally, there have been disruptions to scheduled flights because of staffing shortages but Clark said that hasn’t been the case as much here in Grand Rapids.
“At the Ford Airport, we haven’t really seen delays attributed to crew shortages or staffing issues. At the end of the day, yeS, we are certainly seeing staffing shortages in particular for our food and beverage vendors. Lines are longer there.”
His biggest piece of advice for anyone is to keep up to date with the requirements wherever you’re traveling to and from and keep in mind that it could be the first time many people are traveling in two or more years, which could require some patience.