For members


EXPLAINED: What you need to know about travel between the US and Germany

Germany has long been a top travel destination for Americans but it's been near impossible to visit as a tourist since the start of the pandemic. Now the rules have changed. Here's a look at what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about travel between the US and Germany
Tourists enjoy a bus tour in Dresden in June. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

What’s the latest?

The German Government on June 20th lifted travel restrictions for people in the United States. It came following a recommendation from the EU commission to remove the entry restrictions for all arrivals from US and some other countries. 


It means that travel to Germany from the US for all purposes, including tourism, is allowed again.

For more than a year, vacations to Germany were near impossible as most travel from the US – and many other countries both within and outside Europe – remained heavily restricted due to the pandemic.

The tourism industry – which has been reopening in Germany in the last weeks – is eager for their arrival: from 2018-2019, Americans comprised the third largest group of international visitors to Germany, and the largest from outside of the EU, according to Statista

Typically around 2.2 million Americans visit the Bundesrepublik each year, making it the fourth most popular destination in Europe for them.

READ ALSO: Germany to open borders to vaccinated non-EU nationals

Brilliant. Can I just jump on a plane?

It’s not quite that simple – there are still restrictions: all air travellers aged six or older coming from the US must show either proof of vaccination, proof of recovery from Covid-19 or a negative Covid test result.

Both PCR tests and rapid antigen tests are accepted. You can find out more information on testing in our article here. 

People are considered fully vaccinated on the 15th day after the last vaccine dose was administered. It must be a vaccine approved by the EMA (so that’s currently Pfzier/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson).

On entry to Germany travellers must have proof of vaccination in written form (for example a CDC card) or digital form. The government says that a photo taken on a phone is not sufficient. 

All travellers must also not have any Covid symptoms. 

People could be asked to show photo ID with the proof of vaccination (as is the case for people in Germany when showing proof of inoculation or tests).

Germany said the United States was no longer a risk area as of June 13th 2021, which means people coming from the states do not have to register digitally before arrival. 

Keep in mind that the airline you’re travelling with may require certain information so check with the airline before you leave.

What does the US say?

This is also something that Americans really need to consider. 

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues travel advisories for each country, with most countries in Europe ranked level 3, meaning travel isn’t advised, or level 4 such as Sweden, where Americans are advised not to travel at all.

Germany is ranked at level 3 for the moment so US citizens are not advised to travel here.

EXPLAINED: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules for travel 

I’ve heard about a digital Covid pass in Europe. Can I get that?

At the moment there is no formal agreement between EU countries and the US (or any other non-EU countries) for fully jabbed people to receive a digital vaccination certificate.

The official line from the German government is: “No information is currently available about how those with a foreign vaccine card (e.g. from the US) can receive a digital Covid certificate which is recognised in Europe. Talks are currently underway regarding recognition of international vaccinations (i.e. received outside the EU).”

The government says it will give out information as soon as it becomes available.

However, anecdotally we’ve heard that some people who have been vaccinated in the US can receive a digital vaccine certificate from a pharmacy in Germany – but this is at the discretion of the pharmacist. 

READ ALSO: How I got Germany’s new digital CovPass with my US vaccination certificate

But as we said above, Germany says US tourists do not need to have a digital vaccine pass for the moment. 

What else should I keep in mind?

Remember that rules can change quickly so keep an eye on the Robert Koch Institute’s risk list in case the US goes back on it. 

There have been concerns recently about the rise of the Delta Covid variant so Germany is watching this closely

Entry to Germany is also not allowed if you’ve been in a ‘virus variant area of concern’ within the last 10 days. So make sure you take into account where you’ve travelled before entering Germany. 

You should also check out local rules on the area you’re visiting. In Germany, restrictions remain in place such as mandatory masks on public transport and in shops. 

Do I need to do anything on the way back?

Airline passengers arriving to the US in general need to provide a recent negative Covid test. There may also be other local rules so you’ll have to check them out and consider those before organising a trip. 

Are flights operating from the US?

Yes, but they could be more quiet than usual so the schedule may be reduced. Flights are more likely to be cancelled if there is an entry ban in force, such as from ‘virus variant areas’ (currently the UK, India and Brazil among others).

READ ALSO: Will it be possible to travel to Germany this summer?

You can find more information on the US Embassy in Germany site.

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For members


‘Double processing time’: Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Germany, Austria and another of other countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

'Double processing time': Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors. EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 (out of 26) member states to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.