The United States is hard hit by Covid-19 :
As you probably already know if you visit this page, the United States is one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus at the moment. At the end of July 2020, the country had 3,970,908 confirmed cases of the virus and 143,190 deaths.
Among the states in which the virus is most active are New York, Florida, Arizona, California and Texas, but the virus is indeed present throughout the United States.
Today, it is sometimes impossible to travel to the United States, even with an ESTA, because of the worrying health situation in this destination or in certain other countries.
Can an ESTA be requested during a health crisis?
The fact that it is not possible to travel to the United States does not in any way prevent you from applying for ESTA online. Applications are now made in the same way as before and your ESTA will be valid for two years, giving you time to prepare for your trip to the USA when the borders open again.
However, if you have already obtained your ESTA, you will not be able to use it to travel to the United States for the time being. Nor will the validity date of ESTAs already awarded be extended due to this specific situation. Therefore, if you have visited one of the high-risk areas listed below, you will not be able to travel to the United States. If this is not the case, we do not recommend that you travel to the USA as long as the health situation there is also a cause for concern.
When is it impossible to travel to the USA with an ESTA?
Currently, the US government has not decided to close its borders to foreign travellers. However, some people who have travelled to contaminated countries or areas may be refused entry into the United States, even if they have an ESTA. Unfortunately, France and Belgium are among the countries excluded from entry into the United States because of the virus.
Therefore, anyone who has been in one of the following countries in the last 14 days cannot travel to the USA: Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Brazil, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Exceptions to this prohibition are, of course, for US residents and US citizens and their family members, but only for a limited number of flights and airports.
Finally, it is still possible to transit through the United States if you have not travelled to one of the countries mentioned above by requesting an ESTA online in the conventional way.
Can an ESTA already obtained be cancelled because of the coronavirus?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to cancel an ESTA application or even be reimbursed for this formality due to the current situation, even if you are legally unable to travel to the USA. Please note, however, that if you attempt to travel to the USA when you are not legally entitled to do so, the US Immigration Service has the right to cancel your ESTA, which will of course prevent you from using it in the future.
The ideal is therefore to wait until you can travel to the United States in complete safety, i.e. when travel to this destination will be allowed again for tourists and business trips from France or Belgium. We do not yet know the date of this lifting of the travel ban, which will depend, of course, on the evolution of the health situation. However, it is also possible that new provisions concerning travel to the United States with an ESTA will be introduced soon.
Of course, some people want to know if compensation is possible for financial loss due to a possible cancellation of a trip to the USA? As far as the ESTA is concerned and as we have seen above, as this authorisation remains valid for two years, this authorisation cannot be refunded to travellers under any circumstances, even if it is not used at all in the end. In principle, travel or cancellation insurance companies do not cover the ESTA application fee, but only the price of the flights and possibly the accommodation booked on site for the trip. It goes without saying that insurers are nowadays faced with large sums of compensation from their customers and cannot afford to also reimburse unused ESTA cancellation requests to the USA.
Precautions to take if you are travelling to the United States or are already there :
If you are not excluded from entering the United States or are already staying in the United States, we advise you to take the necessary steps to return home as soon as possible, even if your stay is not over. You will need to do this with an airline that is still willing to offer flights from the United States to European countries.
If you are in the USA and wish to return to France, you must first present a negative RT-PCR test carried out less than 72 hours before the flight and this since 18 July 2020. If you present this negative test when you arrive in France, you will be exempted from a quarantine period.
Furthermore, if you wish to extend your stay in the United States and do not return home immediately, you must of course take all necessary precautions to avoid being contaminated by the virus. Of course, the measures that apply worldwide also apply in the USA, but the local authorities also provide additional advice depending on the state in which you are located.
To limit the risk of contracting or spreading the virus, you should avoid social contact and not visit people at risk, keep a minimum distance of 1.5 metres between you and other people, do not shake hands or kiss someone, Wash your hands regularly with soap or a hydroalcoholic solution, clean your telephone screen, cough or sneeze into your elbow or into a handkerchief, avoid touching your face, wear a mask as often as possible and systematically when social distancing is impossible and use disposable tissues.
Can you extend the duration of your ESTA if you cannot leave the United States?
Finally, if you are in the United States and are unable to leave the country due to current travel restrictions, illness or even cancellation of your flight, and if your ESTA is about to expire, you can always request an extension of your stay in the USA for an additional 30 days. To do this, simply contact the US Immigration Department, one of the airports or border crossings or one of the Deferred Inspection Sites and explain your situation.