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EXPLAINED: When will Americans be allowed to travel to Germany again?

Americans cannot currently travel to Germany for tourism purposes but beyond that there are a number of exceptions - we look at what you can expect.

EXPLAINED: When will Americans be allowed to travel to Germany again?
San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge in August 2019. Photo: DPA

On April 20th, the US government increased its travel warning for Germany to ‘Level 4 – Do Not Travel’, citing “very high” Covid numbers.

Yet the notification is only a warning, not a ban, meaning that Americans can still travel to Germany – but only for what the country classifies as essential purposes.

A long-standing ban on travel for tourism

Americans have not been allowed to travel to Germany for tourism purposes since March 16th 2020, a ban which continues to remain in place.

On March 7th 2021 the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) changed the risk classification of the United States from a “high incidence area” to simply a “risk area”

READ ALSO: Travel: Germany downgrades Covid-19 risk status of USA

Yet the decreasing number of cases in the US, and increasing roll-out of its vaccine campaign, does not change much for Americans at the moment. The German rules for people wanting to visit Germany from the US remain the same as they have been for months: non-essential travel is not allowed.

So what does this mean for Americans?

There are, however, a growing number of exceptions for what Germany’s Interior Ministry (BMI) deems as “essential travel”. We look at how and why Americans can visit Germany, and when the best idea is to put your trip on hold.

“Restrictions will be loosened and eventually removed entirely as health conditions permit,” Bradford Elder, a spokesperson for the German Embassy in Washington D.C., previously told The Local, giving hope for the future.

Can I visit for family reasons?

One of the exceptions for Americans wishing to travel to Germany includes urgent family reasons, although this is decided on a case by case basis. 

“Short-term travel to Germany is possible for immediate family members in some cases but is generally restricted for other relatives at this time,” said Elder.

The BMI lists “family reunification” as a reason to enter Germany but “immediate family” is defined as spouses, children under the age of 18, and parents of minor children. 

Couples are also allowed to reunite, if one partner is German and the other American, and a list of requirements is met. Entering Germany for the purpose of marriage is also permitted, according to the BMI.

The birth of a grandchild also qualifies as a reason for an American to come to Germany.

READ ALSO: ‘I come from a coronavirus risk area. How can I visit my partner in Germany?

Can US students enter Germany?

Entry to Germany for the purposes of studying – including some language courses – or completing a university course is allowed, as long as the students also have a valid student visa.

Can I travel for business?

Yes, but with limitations. If you don’t have a German work permit but are called upon to come to the country for a short stay on behalf of your employer, you can fill out the form “Declaration of the absolute necessity of business travel for the short duration.” The decision to allow entry into Germany, however, is made by the officer conducting border checks.

What about a visit for medical treatment?

In the case of an American who has a medical condition for which they can’t receive treatment in the US, they may be allowed to travel to Germany for the sole purpose of treatment with up to two people accompanying them. 

Can I travel to Germany with a spouse with German or EU citizenship?

Under certain circumstances, American citizens are allowed to visit Germany with a spouse from the EU for family circumstances such as weddings and births. 

To prove the partnership, both partners will need to fill out a “declaration of the existence of the relationship” form. They will also need to show that they share a residence abroad, and can also submit supporting documents such as email exchanges.

Travellers arriving at Tegel airport in September. Photo: DPA

Other reasons when ‘essential travel’ is allowed

Other people who can travel into Germany include:

  • Those who hold citizenship of an EU country

  • Non EU citizens who are permanent residents of an EU country

  • Military personal

  • Healthcare workers engaged in crucial work on the coronavirus crisis

  • Frontier workers and in some circumstances seasonal workers

  • Delivery drivers

“If you do not meet one of these exceptions but believe your circumstances merit entry to Germany, you should contact the German Embassy in Washington D.C.  regarding entry permission,” Joseph Giordano-Scholz, a spokesperson for the American Embassy in Berlin, told The Local.

Can Americans move to Germany now?

Visas for residency purposes (Aufenthaltstitel) have continued to be processed and approved throughout the pandemic, even while borders have been closed to tourists.

If you are applying for a visa that allows you to work or reside in Germany you should not face any additional challenges in getting approved. However, the application process is likely to take longer than usual.

What about travel for Americans already living in Germany?

The rules don’t affect US citizens who are residents of Germany, although they will need to show proof of residency at the border and be subject to the same testing and quarantine rules as German citizens.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about travelling from Germany to other European countries

What happens next?

Germany lifted its blanket worldwide travel warning last autumn and offers individual travel advice for each country instead, which includes several warnings.

Coinciding with this is another EU-wide list of “safe countries” but the ranking is largely based on the health situation in individual countries, so how quickly the ban on tourists is lifted really depends on the evolution of the situation in the US.

READ ALSO: Who is currently allowed to travel to Germany from outside the EU?

The EU’s list is advisory and member states are free to impose different rules if they want (as, for example, Greece has done in allowing Americans to enter, as long as are vaccinated or show a negative Covid-19 test). In theory Germany could decide to allow in visitors from the US anyway.

However German politicians have previously said they will follow the EU’s recommendations, so it seems unlikely that the situation will change anytime soon for Americans wanting to come to Germany for the sole purpose of tourism.

Quarantine and tests

If you are a German resident from the US, or fall into one of the exception categories, you still face strict testing and quarantine measures.

All travellers must have a negative Covid-19 test before entering Germany.

Some individual airlines may however still say that travellers have to present a coronavirus negative test result before boarding is allowed. You should contact your airline before travel to check.

Both PCR tests as well as rapid anitgen tests are accepted if they meet the quality standards. Testing is still mandatory even if travellers are vaccinated or have recovered from a coronavirus infection. 

People returning from “risk zones” are required to self-isolate for 10 days after they arrive.

The quarantine can usually be ended with a negative coronavirus test result taken at the earliest five days after arriving in Germany.

However, German states can differ on their travel regulations so check with your local authority before travelling.

Everyone entering Germany is also required to register online.

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.