What are the current rules for school trips travelling to and from the USA?

5 Nov 2021, 17:54 by Kate Moore


Are school trips to the USA allowed in 2021?

On 8 November the US government relaxed entry restrictions so it is now possible for fully vaccinated teachers to lead school trips to the USA for the first time in more than 20 months. Read on for the current requirements for school groups travelling to the USA from 8 November 2021. 

Some US states, such as New York, also require visitors to have had at least one COVID vaccine to access attractions. The rules for school groups visiting New York are summarised below. 

The rules to enter the USA, and to return home, are subject to change and may differ by the time your trip departs You can stay up to date by following the Foreign Office advice.

Tests and paperwork requirements for school trips to the US

Groups planning to travel to the US should familiarise themselves with the national testing requirements and state rules for visitors. 

All air passengers, regardless of their vaccination status, are required to carry Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test (PCR or lateral flow) or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States.

To avoid quarantine, adults will need to demonstrate that they have been fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine, such as AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech. The United States will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. We await confirmation that unvaccinated children can travel with vaccinated teachers in the same way that they can with vaccinated parents. As teachers are acting “in loco parentis” on school trips we expect this to be the case and the UK government has confirmed this is the case for school groups returning to this country.

To enter the US all travellers will need to fill out an attestation form that says they agree to get tested 3-5 days after arrival.

In addition to these COVID-19 requirements, you will need to get a visa or an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver to enter the USA as a visitor. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need. We also recommend that the lead teacher carries a letter, on school letterhead, listing all the teachers and students on the trip and confirming to border control that the group is on a school tour.

Testing while in the US

All visitors aged 2 years or over, regardless of their vaccination status, are required to take a test within 3-5 days of arrival. The only exemption is if you have recovered from a documented COVID-19 infection within the past 90 days, then you do not need to get a test 3-5 days after travel.

If tests are still required by the time you travel, we'll support you in accessing these tests. Many US pharmacies offer walk-in tests. You can find community testing sites here

Demonstrating your COVID-19 status while in New York

All visitors to New York aged 12 and over will need to have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine to access cultural venues, restaurants, sports venues and attractions such as the Empire State Building. To enter an attraction each member of the group needs to carry an official vaccine record, such as the NHS COVID Pass, and a photo ID, such as their passport. The NYC Health website has more details.

While these restrictions apply to New York the rules vary from state to state. Groups travelling outside of NYC should familiarise themselves with the state rules for their specific destination.   

Passenger locator form for school groups returning to the UK

All travellers must complete this passenger locator form in the 48 hours before they arrive in the UK. We are working with the Department for Transport to simplify the passenger locator form process for school groups.

Our top tip for teachers — Parents can create an account and complete their child's form online before the trip. The form can then be submitted by the parent or child in the 48 hours before the group returns to the UK. Children will need their login details to access the completed form, so it may be wise for parents to share the login with the teacher as a back-up.

COVID-19 rules for school trips returning home from the US

The Department for Transport has confirmed that children returning to England with a fully vaccinated teacher as part of a school trip will benefit from the same rules as the fully vaccinated adult, regardless of their vaccination status.

Currently, all travellers returning from non-red list countries are required to take a PCR test and stay at home while awaiting their test results. Read the current rules for returning to the UK from abroad.

Can unvaccinated teachers travel to the US?

The current rules mean that unvaccinated teachers cannot travel to the US without self-isolating on arrival. Children under the age of 18 who are not fully vaccinated are exempt from the quarantine requirement.

The Department for Transport has confirmed that children returning to England with a fully vaccinated teacher as part of a school trip will benefit from the same rules as the fully vaccinated adult, regardless of their vaccination status. Read more about the rules for returning to the UK from abroad.

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