What to Know as Borders Reopen and International Travel Resumes

After more than a year of stringent restrictions limiting international travel, dozens of borders around the world will reopen to travelers this summer. Some countries have already started the process, while others have announced plans to gradually roll back restrictions in the near future.

For business travelers, the prospect of borders reopening means a return to key markets and the resumption of face-to-face meetings. This can be a daunting process, which is why we recommend travelers start by downloading our guide to the New Traveler Journey in order to travel safely and confidently. While many countries are reopening, each country has its own standards and processes for how they are letting travelers back in. Here’s what you need to know as borders reopen and what it means for your corporate travel program.

Easing Open U.S. Borders

(NOTE: Since this blog was first published, Canada has reopened its borders to select travelers as of August 9, 2021. The following information has not been updated to reflect that change.)

The nearly 9,000-kilometer land border separating the U.S. and Canada has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21, 2020. Although the border has not reopened to most travelers, plans are in the works to reopen the border in a phased approach this summer. 

The first phase of the reopening will take effect in July and make it easier for vaccinated Canadian citizens to travel abroad. Currently, Canada requires its citizens returning home to quarantine in a government-approved hotel until they receive proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The new rules will allow fully-vaccinated citizens to bypass the hotel quarantine and await negative test results in their normal place of residence. Though the first phase only applies to Canadians and not all vaccinated travelers, further phases are expected to gradually reopen the country.

At the U.S. border with Mexico, the closure is expected to lift once vaccination rate thresholds are met. This comes as the U.S. State Department has updated its full list of travel advisories, moving Mexico and more than 110 countries to less severe tiers of travel safety ratings.

Traveling to the EU and the UK

After COVID-19 case counts begin to drop this spring, the EU announced plans to open its borders to fully vaccinated travelers by summer. Since that announcement, a flurry of new developments continue to reshape the process and some countries have been faster than others to establish criteria for allowing travelers back in.

Iceland and Croatia were among the first of European countries to welcome back visitors in April, followed shortly by Greece. Italy is still in the process of reopening to the larger public but allows visitors to enter without quarantine if arriving on a COVID-tested Delta flight. The country’s health pass, which will be available as a means of entry to anyone who has been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19, is expected by the end of June.

Over in France, a color-coded system allows vaccinated travelers to enter with restrictions based on country. Those arriving from countries in the “green” category will face virtually no entry requirements, while those in the “orange” category must provide a negative COVID test to enter. For those in the “red” category, only essential travel is permitted, subject to testing and quarantine. Other European countries have enacted similar color-coded systems, including Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway.

Travel to the UK still has barriers in place, although a bilateral task force has been formed to develop recommendations for resuming travel between the two countries. Currently, the UK maintains a color-coded system that requires testing and a 10-day quarantine for travelers from nearly all but a dozen, green-listed countries. Across the sea in Ireland, borders will reopen to visitors from the U.S., UK, and EU on July 19 using the EU digital COVID certificate.

Nearing a Global Reopening

With more countries reopening, it is no longer a question of when international travel will resume, but a question of which processes countries will use to admit travelers. Along with COVID-19 testing, vaccine certificates and health passports continue to be a key criteria for entry. Traveler quarantine is being relied on less, but it continues to be used as a measure primarily for unvaccinated individuals.

In order to navigate this shifting landscape of restrictions, your organization needs up-to-date information and actionable intelligence. Our partnership with Sherpa provides your travelers with the latest requirements regarding travel quarantine, mask mandates, COVID testing, and proof of vaccination. Use our Traveler Intelligence Hub to access the latest restrictions and share the new expectations of travel with your team.