The Full UK To US Travel Guide - Including All Forms And Testing Requirements
Disclaimer: Mickey From The UK might receive a small commission for products linked to at no extra cost to you, which helps support this website and community. This has no way influenced the content of this article. Starting 8th November 2021, the US finally reopened their borders to us following a 20-month travel ban. We can now visit our favourite place - The Walt Disney World Resort - once again. Travelling internationally has changed, with extra procedures, paperwork, testing, and costs. This article will walk you through what's required to travel to the US (from a British perspective) following the reopening of the borders, as well as examples of some of the new costs involved. This article was last updated on 5th January, 2022.
This might seem super overwhelming and complicated, but stick with it, once you get a picture in your mind of what's required, it's a breeze. Here we go.
ESTA's are still required for travel to the US. They cost $14 each and lasts two years. They must be completed through the official ESTA website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. Please try and avoid third-party companies who try to charge your hundreds of pounds to complete them for you.
COVID-19 vaccination requirement
All travellers aged 18 and over need to be fully vaccinated per CDC guidelines. "Fully vaccinated" means:
2 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, or Moderna
2 doses of AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm, or Sinovac
You do not qualify as "fully vaccinated" unless 14 days have passed from your second dose. You will be required to show your NHS app QR code when departing the UK and arriving in the US to prove your vaccination status.
Pre-Departure Tests (To The USA)
All travellers aged 2+ are required to take an observed pre-departure LFT/antigen COVID-19 test. These generally cost around £30-£40 each. As per the CDC guidelines, these pre-departure (or "fit to fly") tests must be observed by a telehealth consultant. This is usually done in person at a clinic or on a video call. All they do is observe you taking the test to make sure your result is yours.
The CDC says: "The testing procedure must include a telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test that provides real-time supervision remotely through an audio and video connection" "The telehealth provider must confirm your identity, observe the sample collection and testing procedures, confirm the test result"
We've linked to Project Screen's COVID-19 tests in this article because they were the testing provider that Disney used for their Magic At Sea cruises, so we are somewhat familiar with them. We also used them for our day 2 return tests (which we'll get into soon) when we went to Disneyland Paris in November 2021 and had a positive experience with them, so for example purposes we will reference their tests to give you an idea of what to order and expect.
You can also use the UK government's find a test provider service to shop around, but the test each traveller will need will be the "Observed Lateral Flow Antigen Fit to Fly Test" which costs £32 each. You can order the tests whenever you like, and they'll be shipped out DPD next day when it comes time to take them. After purchasing the tests, you'll be given instructions to arrange your observed video call.
The CDC says your observed COVID-19 test must be taken no more than 1 day before your departure to the USA. This can be any time the day before your flight.
The CDC says: For example, if your flight is at 1pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday.
As well as an ESTA, an attestation form is required by all adults. This is essentially a legal declaration that you have taken a valid negative COVID-19 test, are genuinely vaccinated, etc. Willingly providing false or misleading information may lead to fines and other criminal penalties. Your airline will provide this to you before you're due to fly.
Test 3-5 days after arriving in the US
The CDC requires unvaccinated travellers - including unvaccinated children between 2 and 17 - to take a COVID-19 LFT/antigen test between 3 and 5 days after arriving in the US. Remember, a child is not "fully vaccinated" unless they've had two doses of a vaccine as outlined at the start of this article. These tests can be done and/or purchased at local pharmacies such as Walgreens, CVS, etc. Most are just a short drive or taxi from Walt Disney World. The CDC has a search to find nearby testing centers. Or, you could order the"Lateral Flow Antigen Test Kit" for £19 each and take them with you. You can then take the test upload it, and get your negative certificate. This test does not have to be observed, and you do not need to declare it anywhere. However, you have to swear in your attestation form that if travelling with unvaccinated children (as outlined above) they did take one of these tests 3-5 days after arriving.
Passenger locator form
Before you return back to the UK, it is compulsory to complete a passenger locator form. You can include someone under 18 years old who is travelling with you on your form, if you are staying together at the same UK address. The passenger locator form must be filled out online within 48 hours of returning back in the UK. This form is needed so you can be contacted if you were exposed to COVID, as well as supplying day 2 test information, and more. The form is located on the official gov.uk website @ https://www.gov.uk/provide-journey-contact-details-before-travel-uk
Testing changes (January 5th) - A return PCR test is no longer required, an LFT test on day 2 is now allowed again.
All travellers aged 4+ must take a day 2 COVID-19 test which must be ordered before you travel. The day 2 test does not have to be observed, and the "Day 2 Lateral Flow Antigen Arrivals Test" is what's needed, and costs just £19 each. You must order these in advance so they're through your letterbox ready to take when you return. When you purchase these tests, you will be given references numbers which will be needed to submitted in the passenger locator form you must fill out before you depart back to the UK.
Order your day 2 tests ready to take when you return home. Save the reference numbers as you'll need them for the passenger locator form
It might seem incredibly complicated, but once you get your head around the requirements for you and your family, it's a breeze. This article was written in mid-November, and we will do what we can to keep it up to date, but of course, always check the CDC guidance for the most up to date information.