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How Americans can navigate Germany’s new travel restrictions

How Americans can navigate Germany's new travel restrictions
Visitors at the Königssee in southern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel
After Germany removed the United States from the 'safe list' and bumped it up to the 'high risk' category we looked at what the new rules are, and the documents you need for travel.

Can I travel to Germany from the States for a tourist trip?

Yes – but it does all depend on if you’re vaccinated or not, unlike before. 

For around two months up until Sunday August 15th, travel to Germany from the US for all purposes, including tourism, was allowed and it didn’t matter whether tourists were vaccinated or not. 

That’s because the German government had lifted travel restrictions for people coming from the United States on June 20th. 

But earlier in August the US – along with other nations including Israel – was moved to Germany’s ‘high risk’ category due to the rising number of Covid infections there. 

Tightening the travel rules will have been a difficult move for the government given that around 2.2 million Americans typically visit Germany every year (in non-Covid times).

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See also on The Local:

Germany is the fourth most popular European destination for American tourists, behind the UK, France and Italy, but ahead of Spain.

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What are the new rules then?

With the US losing its coveted spot on the ‘safe list’ (other countries still on it include Canada, New Zealand, Ukraine and Singapore), it’s now joined the ranks of the other non-EU countries.

Germany lifted entry restrictions for fully vaccinated people coming from lots of non-EU countries on June 25th. 

Anyone who has spent time in non-EU countries on the high-risk list within 10 days before entry to Germany has to be fully vaccinated or needs to have a compelling reason for entering the country. 

That means people who are unvaccinated will not be allowed to enter Germany, unless they have an essential reason to do so or they are part of the exceptions, such as being a German citizen or EU resident.

However, if you are eligible to enter Germany and you’re unvaccinated, you have to enter a 10-day quarantine after arrival. The quarantine can be ended after a negative test result taken on the fifth day at the earliest.

As the local health office is responsible for coordinating and monitoring quarantine rules, you’ll usually receive instructions from them in an email after arrival and they’ll be able to let you know how you can do the test, and any other regulations or advice you should be aware of.

READ ALSO: ‘Better than I could have imagined’: How foreigners feel about being able to travel to Germany

Do I need to do anything else?

Yes. The new rules also mean that anyone travelling from the States now has to register on the Digital Entry Portal and upload proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test.

On this registration site, you’ll also submit details of where you live/where you are staying in Germany which allows officials to send your contact information to the correct local health office. 

You have to carry confirmation of the registration when crossing the border into Germany and you may be asked for it before boarding. You may also be asked for your vaccination/recovery/testing proof. 

Having evidence of these certificates on your phone is enough – you don’t have to print them out – but try and make sure they are easy to access. 

Also keep in mind that the airline you’re travelling with – or the country you’re transiting through – might have extra requirements. 

It’s fair to say that travel in Covid times is never simple…

A popular beer garden in Berchtesgaden, southern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

What do I have to do if I’m vaccinated?

If you can show proof of vaccination, you generally do not have to provide a negative Covid test before travel to Germany. That’s also the case if you can show proof of recovery from Covid (if you contracted the infection at least 28 days ago and no more than six months ago).

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, you need to show proof that you have been fully vaccinated on an official document issued by a recognised health authority in your country of residence.

It can be in written form (for example a CDC card) or digital form. The government says that a photo taken on a phone is not sufficient. 

If you weren’t vaccinated in the US but are travelling form the US, the German government says the EU digital Covid pass or comparable proof of vaccination in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish counts as proof.  

This certificate has to include details like your name, date of birth, name of the vaccine, and the signature or stamp of the person carrying out the vaccination, or an official stamp or state symbol that identifies the responsible institution.

Can children travel to Germany?

Children under 12 who are not vaccinated can travel with a vaccinated adult/guardian. Youngsters over six previously needed to take a test before travel to Germany, but new rules mean that tests are mandatory only for children aged 12 and above. 

However, children are not exempt from quarantine regulations. They have to quarantine after arriving from a high risk country. The quarantine ends automatically after five days without a Covid test. 

READ ALSO: Can unvaccinated children travel to Germany?

Minors of third-country nationals (not on the safe list) over the age of 12 are only allowed to enter if they have a compelling reason or if they have been fully vaccinated.

Do I need the digital EU pass?

No. Germany is rolling out its health pass in conjunction with the EU. But it is not yet available widely to people outside of the EU. 

However, you will need to show proof of your vaccination/recovery or a negative Covid test for entry into many indoor spaces as part of Germany’s 3G ‘Covid health pass’ system. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get your digital Covid vaccine pass in Germany for EU travel

Why did the US get placed in Germany’s high risk category?

Covid cases are rising across the states – the US had clocked up a 7-day incidence of 304 Covid cases per 100,000 people on Friday. 

Germany generally puts countries on the high-risk list when they soar above 200 cases per 100,000 people. Officials also take into account vaccination rates and other Covid measures. 

The US has seen its vaccination campaign stall in recent months while cases have spiked, particularly in southern states. 

Do we have to worry about anything else?

We all hope that no worrying new variants of concern will emerge anywhere in the world. But if variants of concern that aren’t already in Germany at a high level become widespread in a country, the country in question can be moved to the ‘virus variant of concern’ category where travel is essentially banned.

Those who are allowed in – like German residents and citizens – generally have to quarantine for 14 days and submit a negative Covid test before travel even if fully vaccinated. If the vaccines are found to be effective against the variant in question, vaccinated people would not have to quarantine. 

Keep an eye on the RKI list of risk countries here as the situation can change quickly.

Can people in Germany travel to the US?

At the moment non-US citizens and residents from Europe are generally unable to travel to the United States, unless they spend 14 days beforehand in a country that is not on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ‘prohibited’ list, such as Mexico or Canada.

The tough entry ban may be relaxed soon – but it looks the US has its hands full with rising Covid cases at the moment. 

READ ALSO: Is the United States finally set to open up to travellers from Germany?

Those eligible to travel to the States should keep in mind that they are required to take a Covid test three days before travel, even if they are vaccinated. 

PCR tests and rapid antigen tests are accepted but be sure to check the requirements before travel.

Is the US encouraging people to travel to Germany and Europe?

The US recommends that only vaccinated citizens and residents travel to Germany.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues travel advisories for each country, with most countries in Europe ranked either level 4 (very high risk) 3 (high risk) or 2 (moderate).

Germany is ranked as level 2 currently. Some European countries such as Spain are level 4, and Americans are not advised not to travel there at all.


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