In line with many countries around the world, in order to combat the spread of Covid-19, the EU placed restrictions on travelers entering from non-EU countries.  With increasing numbers of people now being vaccinated, some countries are slowly coming out of lockdown with restrictions on non-emergency travel easing.

Earlier this week, EU Member States came to an agreement regarding entry of visitors from outside of the EU.  The agreement is still pending final approval but it is anticipated that EU countries will soon allow entry to visitors who either have been fully vaccinated with an EU approved vaccine or are from a "safe list" of third countries that have met certain criteria.

These criteria include:

  • the level of infection within the population;
  • progress in having the population vaccinated against the virus;
  • response to the risk posed by new variants;
  • the detection in a country of variants of interest and variants of concern.

Travelers who are fully vaccinated must have received the last vaccine dose at least 14 days before entering the EU.

The EU is expected to publish the "safe list" of third countries early next week. Currently, the residents of seven countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Israel, are allowed into the bloc for non-essential travel, though not all Member States apply the list.  There is hope that the US will be included on the "safe list" since 37.5% of the adult population have been fully vaccinated compared to 16% of EU citizens.

Once this has been fully agreed, Member States should be able to accept vaccine certificates from third countries providing these certificates contain the minimum level of information required by the national law of that Member State.

In parallel with this, on 20 May there was a provisional political agreement between the EU Parliament and Council regarding the EU Digital COVID Certificate (the "Certificate").  This Certificate will further facilitate travel within the EU by EU nationals and is anticipated to be ready for use by the end of June.  It should reduce some of the testing and quarantine requirements for EU nationals within the EU.  Once this is in place, third country vaccination certificates should be treated as equivalent to the Certificate.

British citizens travelling to an EU country will have to meet the same entry requirements as any other third country. Likewise, an EU national travelling to the UK will be allowed entry subject to whether they are coming from a country classified as red, amber or green. Again, the UK is expected to be on the EU's "safe list" as 70% of the adult population have had their first vaccination dose with 40% having received their second dose.

Travelers to an EU country must check the requirements of that country before travelling.  As this is a voluntary easing of restrictions, not all EU countries will be implementing this change in full at the outset.  However, businesses and travelers alike are welcoming news of the change especially those businesses hit hard by the lack of tourists.

With the EU clearly indicating its desire to welcome back tourists and business travelers, it is to be hoped that more countries will also start to ease their travel restrictions in the near future.

Originally published 21 May 2021.

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