The US is working on a plan that would require nearly all foreign visitors to the country to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to reports.
A White House official told Reuters that the Biden administration wants to re-open travel but it is not ready to immediately lift restrictions because of rising Covid-19 infection rates.
The official said interagency working groups are working “to have a new system ready for when we can reopen travel”, adding that foreign nationals travelling to the US will need to be fully vaccinated.
In June, US president Joe Biden and prime minister Boris Johnson discussed restarting transatlantic links and established a taskforce to look at policies.
However, the head of European air traffic management body Eurocontrol warned last month that traffic to the US from the UK is not likely to resume before late September.
Reuters said industry officials still think it will be at least weeks and potentially months before restrictions are lifted.
Bosses from the US and UK travel trade have long been calling for the lifting of 212F executive order – imposed by ex-president Donald Trump in March 2020 – which bans Brits from travelling to the States.
Last week, UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said fully-jabbed travellers arriving from the US would be exempt from quarantine, from August 2.
US Travel executive vice president of public affairs and policy, Tori Emerson Barnes, said: “The US travel industry welcomes reports that the Biden administration is building a plan to reopen our borders to fully-vaccinated international travellers.
“Every week that travel bans on the UK, EU, and Canada remain in place, our economy loses $1.5 billion in spending, which would support 10,000 American jobs.
“While vaccinations are a crucial tool to allow us to reopen to 212(f) countries, it would be a step back to replace the current testing requirement with a vaccine requirement for all other countries.
“We urge the administration to advance this plan for 212(f) countries and set a reopening date as quickly as possible, especially as the UK, much of the EU, and Canada have all taken recent similar steps to reopen their borders to vaccinated travellers and rebuild their economies.”
Steve Norris, EMEA managing director for Flight Centre Corporate, said: “Like all businesses throughout the travel industry, we eagerly await further news regarding travel to the US and welcome the announcement that President Biden wishes to accept fully vaccinated travellers when international arrivals are accepted.
“We implore the prime minister and transport secretary Shapps to work with their US counterparts to ensure a speedy return to transatlantic travel, which represents our most popular destination for international business travel.”
Peter Vlitas, executive vice-president of global airline relations for Barrhead Travel parent Internova, said “it makes no sense whatsoever” that the move isn’t reciprocal.
Following Wednesday’s announcement about changes to the traffic light system, American Express Global Business Travel, reiterated the call for the US ban to be lifted.
Andrew Crawley, Amex GBT chief commercial officer, said: “While the UK and the EU are making thoughtful decisions about travel, the Biden administration must at least provide a timeline for the withdrawal of the presidential proclamation – 212F – that prevents Europeans from entering the US.
“A science-based and data-driven approach can empower governments to ease travel restrictions whilst prioritising public health.
“The US has banned travel from the UK and Europe for more than 500 days.
“Every day 212F remains in place is another day that families remain separated, vital trade routes remain severed and jobs are put at risk.”