The White House is to lift the US travel Covid ban and allow fully vaccinated arrivals from the UK and EU nations to enter the country from November 8.
The US finally confirmed a date after weeks of uncertainty for those wanting to travel into or out of the States.
Vaccinated travellers from China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil will also be permitted. The States will apply vaccine requirements to all foreign nationals coming from other countries.
The US first imposed restrictions on arrivals from abroad in January 2020 when travellers from China were prohibited from entering the country. The restrictions then extended to other countries around the world.
Non-essential travellers were then prevented from entering the US at all land borders in March last year.
On Friday, the White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz tweeted: “The US’ new travel policy that requires vaccination for foreign national travellers to the US will begin on November 9.
“This announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel. This policy is guided by public health, stringent and consistent.”
Passengers will not need to quarantine upon arrival but will need to prove they were vaccinated before boarding a flight and provide a negative Covid test which was taken within the last three days.
The ban caused great controversy as US president Joe Biden kept the doors to the US firmly closed to Brits and Europeans for more than 18 months – even as rest of the world began accepting US tourists earlier this year.
Only American citizens, their immediate families, green card holders and those granted a National Interest Exemption could enter the US if they had been in the UK or the European Union over the last 14 days.
Families were separated as sick relatives could not necessarily leave their homes in the US, and international businesses felt the strain.
Following the announcement that the US was willing to change the rules back in September, Boris Johnson said the easing of US travel rules for fully vaccinated travellers was “a fantastic boost for business and trade”.
He also said it was “great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again”.
This landmark diplomatic decision will overturn the ban first introduced by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump via a Presidential Proclamation in March 2020.
It’s believed Biden has kept the ban in place as Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths continued to rise across the country after his inauguration.
A US-UK taskforce was launched in June with the goal of opening up travel.
The policy change came the day after prime minister Johnson touched down in New York, at the start of the UN General Assembly.
It’s thought Johnson was already planning to ask his American counterpart to lift the ban, especially as US tourists are now permitted into the UK.
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg described the news as a “happy surprise” for Downing Street.
Johnson had previously told reporters: “I don’t think we’re necessarily going to crack it this week.”
Speaking at a press conference in New York, he said: “We have done it faster than we expected but that’s thanks to the hard work of our teams.”
The Financial Times claimed this change was part of a wider framework organised by the Biden administration, to cover all international travel through one consistent policy.
The White House also confirmed US citizens who are not vaccinated against Covid will face stricter testing requirements.
They will need to be tested within a day before returning to the States and then once again once arriving at home.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognises people who have received the Pfizer, Moderna or Janssen from Johnson & Johnson jab as fully vaccinated, but travellers who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine will also be able to enter because the US acknowledges its approval by the World Health Organisation.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention will also ask for airlines to collect contact information for contact tracing.
The announcement is a major boost for airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, and Heathrow Airport.
They have repeatedly blamed the travel ban for limiting the recovery of passenger numbers during the virus crisis.
Heathrow has gone from being Europe’s busiest airport in 2019 to 10th, behind rivals in cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.
Around 3.8 million British nationals visited the US every year prior to the pandemic, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said: “Today’s news, which will see our two nations reunited after more than 18 months apart, marks an historic moment and one which will provide a huge boost to global Britain as it emerges from this pandemic.
“We are immensely grateful to the prime minister and his government for all the hard work that’s gone into securing this deal with the US, and which builds upon last Friday’s announcement on the lifting of many travel restrictions.
“Our customers should now feel that the world is re-opening to them and they can book their trips with confidence.”
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said the easing of restrictions is “a major milestone to the reopening of travel at scale, allowing consumers and businesses to book travel to the US with confidence”.
He went on: “The UK will now be able to strengthen ties with our most important economic partner, the US, boosting trade and tourism as well as reuniting friends, families and business colleagues.”
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said: “Connectivity between the US and the UK is part of the bedrock of the global economy.
“The prime minister has secured a massive win for global Britain in getting these links restarted.”