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Everything you need to know about travel between Germany and the USA

Travellers check into a flight to New York at Frankfurt airport.
Travellers check into a flight to New York at Frankfurt airport on November 8th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow
As the USA reopens its borders to travellers from Europe, here's what you need to know about travel between Germany and the US.

Around 18 months after closing its borders to almost all travel by non-US citizens, the USA on Monday November 8th began allowing travellers from Europe to enter again – provided they are vaccinated.

From Germany to the USA

The US has previously allowed its own citizens, and their close family members, to return for any reason. For example, Americans living in Germany have been able to travel to see loved ones. But it has not allowed non-US citizens to enter, except for essential travel.

This changes from November 8th, and now non-US citizens can travel from Germany for any reason – including holidays –  but only if they are fully vaccinated.

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The US defines fully vaccinated as;

  • Vaccinated with a WHO approved vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca)
  • 14 days after the final dose
  • The US does not give mixed dose vaccines (eg one AstraZeneca and one Pfizer) but it will accept this combination as fully vaccinated
  • However it will not accept a single vaccine dose after catching Covid, as is standard practice in Germany

US citizens, permanent residents and those travelling to the US on an immigrant visa are not required to show proof of vaccination.

Find the full details here.

Testing – All travellers over the age of two – US citizens included – must show a negative Covid test before boarding. 

If you are fully vaccinated the test must be taken within 72 hours of travel, non-vaccinated people must have a test taken within 24 hours of travel.

Antigen tests are generally accepted for travel, as well as PCR tests, but check requirements before travel. 

Children – Under 18s are exempt from the vaccination requirement but, as noted above, children above two are required to take a pre-departure test. Unvaccinated foreign nationals under 18 will not have to self-isolate for seven days on arrival.

According to the rules, If travelling with a fully vaccinated adult, an unvaccinated child can test three days prior to departure, but if an unvaccinated child is traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults, they will have to test within a day before departure.

There are exemptions for some people such as those with valid medical reasons for not getting vaccinated and those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons, but they will need a letter from the US government showing an urgent need to travel.

Masks/health pass – The USA does not have a national Covid health pass entry rule scheme like Germany. Some States have introduced their own health pass, but these are generally aimed at employees rather than needing a pass to access bars or restaurants. Likewise mask rules vary according to the State, but in general are less strict than the German rules.

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

People check in for a flight to New York at Frankfurt airport on November 8th.
People check in for a flight to New York at Frankfurt airport on November 8th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

From US to Germany

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 and placed it on the safe list. 

But on August 15th, the US was moved to Germany’s ‘high risk’ category due to the rising number of Covid infections there. 

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

Germany counts as fully vaccinated those who

  • Are vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson)
  • Have had a single vaccine dose after previously recovering from Covid
  • Mixed dose vaccines are accepted 
  • 14 days after the final dose

That means people who are unvaccinated are generally not allowed to enter Germany from the US, 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.

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.

Vaccinated – Travellers need only to provide proof of vaccination (in paper or digital form, but a photo of a vaccine certificate will not be accepted) and do not need a Covid test to enter Germany. The CDC certificate is accepted as proof of vaccination at the border. 

Digital entry form – The German rules also mean that anyone travelling from the States 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. 

Unvaccinated – You will have to show proof that fit one of the criteria for essential travel. All travellers over 12 must provide a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours if a PCR test or 48 hours if an antigen test. 

Children – 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 the latest 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. 

Covid entry rules/masks – Masks are required on all public transport and in many indoor public spaces like in shops and when not sitting a table in a restaurant. 

Most of Germany is covered by 3G or 2G Covid entry pass rules. That means under the 3G rules, entry to indoor public spaces is only for people who can show proof of being vaccinated (geimpft), people who’ve recovered from Covid within the last six months (genesen) or have tested negatively for Covid-19 (getestet). 

The 2G rules – which some states are moving to – excludes unvaccinated people from many parts of public life. 

Vaccination certificates from abroad (with an EMA-approved vaccine) are generally accepted. However, some local rules require that people show a digital certificate.

In Berlin, for instance, since the end of September, people now have to show digital proof that can be verified when they enter 2G spaces. 

Those without a smartphone can present the QR code printed out for their digital vaccination certificate.

People in Germany can access the EU digital vaccination certificate by taking proof of their vaccinations to a pharmacy. However, the German government has told The Local that to get the Covid-19 vaccine certificate, you need to have a point of contact with Germany. For instance if you live or work in Germany. 

The government said it is still clarifying how people from non-EU countries can get a digital Covid certificate. 

“The conditions under which DCCs are also issued to third-country nationals who are not entitled to vaccination in Germany under German law are currently being clarified,” said a Health Ministry spokesman. 

You can read more detail on these topics in the articles below. 

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Member comments

  1. Great detail as always. This site was the only one I read, out of many, that provided details on quarantine for children. It seems these rules may update again around November 10th, so hoping for a change there.

    1. I didn’t even know we had any quarantine restrictions in the US. Only a handful of States enacted them and even fewer enforced them – Hawaii for one. I love going home to Florida. No masks anywhere. No asking you your private business everywhere. It’s awesome.

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