European Union will open its borders to international travellers


  • Posted on 24 May, 2021
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2021 TRAVEL UPDATE: Citizens from many countries will be able to visit Europe this summer.

May 24, 2021 - Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Europe has closed its borders to most international travelers, including a ban on all non-essential travel beginning in March 2020.

That is all about to change and summer travel to Europe is back!


One policy change is the number of Coronavirus cases a country can have and still be considered a ‘safe’ region of origin. The other change is that travelers who can confirm they have met European Union (EU) vaccination guidelines will soon be able to resume European travel.

Read more here to learn about changing travel requirements for non-EU citizens, including vaccination requirements, COVID testing, and more.

When will countries in Europe reopen to international visitors?

The 27 European Union members has announced their agreement to reopen their borders as soon as early June. The agreement is to welcome foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated, with some restrictions. Individual countries will set guidelines for and testing or quarantine requirements.

Which countries’ citizens will be able to visit the European Union?

The EU is updating travel information based on the most current information, and current restrictions based on country of origin are being reviewed and revised. The European Union  has created a “safe” country designation based on COVID cases. Under existing guidelines, only seven countries are considered safe: Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea. China will also be considered safe, under the condition that the status is reciprocal. Macao and Hong Kong would follow under the China provision.

The EU will be releasing updated lists within the coming weeks of designated ‘safe’ countries. The “safe” designation, however, is not the only way to get through Europe’s gates. Travelers who can provide proof of vaccination will also be allowed entry, though some individual European countries may still require a negative COVID test as well.

Per the official ‘Reopen the EU’ website operated by the European Union Commission, “[‘safe’ status] is based on the most recent available data provided by EU Member States and collected from other publicly available and authoritative national sources.”

The European Centres for Disease Prevention and Control are also watching for new variants and may respond accordingly. EU members have agreed to emergency measures that may suspend travel as required, should new variants start to spread.

Which countries are still not considered “safe”?

At the time of writing this article, most countries are still not considered ‘safe,” including Britain, Japan, the United States, and Brazil. The European Union Commission is expected to provide more specific updates by the end of May.

It is anticipated that the revised standards for determining “safe” countries will make Britain a “safe” country, but the United States might not be.

However, citizenship from an “unsafe” country does not necessarily mean you cannot travel to Europe. Guidelines are expected to be released shortly that will grant travel permission to non-EU nationals who can provide proof of complete vaccination.

Do I need to be vaccinated to visit Europe?

Note: If you are not coming from a “safe” country, you will need to provide proof of vaccination that meets EU standards.

Will I need to take a COVID test to go to Europe?

It depends on the country you are traveling to, but as of May 2021, many European countries require a negative COVID-19 PCR test or rapid Antigen test within 48-72 hours of arrival. Travellers may also be required to show proof of being fully vaccinated or having recovered from a past infection within the past six months.

For those planning travel in 2021, realize that travel requirements are changing rapidly. It is recommended that travellers check with the European Union's Reopen EU site for updated information prior to booking travel.

Do I need the ETIAS to enter the EU?

The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is a form of pre-authorisation for travel to Europe. This electronic documentation will be tied to your passport and essentially verifies that a traveler does not pose a security risk and is free to travel across internal EU borders for short–term travel which allows for stays up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

The ETIAS travel waiver programme is not yet active and is not expected to come into effect until late 2022 (or possibly early 2023), so individuals traveling to Europe in the summer of 2021 will not be required to apply.

Citizens from 61 countries will be required to apply for ETIAS when it comes into force, including Canada, South Korea, and Mexico. Click here for a complete list of countries whose citizens need to apply for ETIAS. Once approved, travellers can easily enter and exit external EU borders and travel to any of 26 countries, including Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Greece.

Plan your trip to Europe with the most up-to-date news and information

European travel information is changing rapidly in response to changes in global the pandemic landscape. Sign up for the ETIAS newsletter for the latest travel requirements for non-EU citizens. ETIAS and other entry and exit requirements are being updated over the next few years, and the days of traveling to Europe with just a passport are no more but the ETIAS travel waiver will be a convenient and secure new means of visa-free travel. Plan ahead and get ready for a summer adventure in Europe! 

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