Can Americans in France go back to the USA for Christmas this year?

Can Americans in France go back to the USA for Christmas this year?
Photo: AFP
With travel from the US to France heavily restricted for most of the year so far, Americans who live in France have already begun to wonder whether they will be able to visit family in the US at Christmas.

As the health situation continues to evolve nothing is certain, and rules could change again between now and Christmas.

However as things stand at the moment, here is the situation around holiday-time visits.

READ ALSO When will tourism from the US to France be possible again?

From France to the US

America has its own travel restrictions in place, including for Europe, but US citizens are exempt from this rule and can enter the country, even if they don't permanently live there. Find out more about the restrictions on entering the USA here.

READ ALSO Last-minute Covid tests and surgical masks – what to expect when flying from the US to France

From the USA to France

By and large, Americans are still banned from entry to France because the country has not yet been added to the EU's 'safe country' list.

This means no tourism, but there are exemptions and US citizens who have their permanent home in France are one of those.

So if you live in France you are free to travel back to the US over Christmas and then return to France – but with quite a lot of extra conditions.

First you will need to be prepared to prove your residency status at the border with either a visa or a carte de séjour. We are hearing varied reports of the strictness of entry requirements, but a significant number of people are reporting that they were quizzed at the border and some who did not meet the criteria were turned away, so make sure you have your paperwork with you.

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You will also need a Covid-19 test before you fly and at present the rules on this are strict – you will not be able to board a plane to France without a recent negative Covid test.

This rule applies to everyone over the age of 11 flying from the US (including French citizens) and must be carried out within 72 hours of your journey, so you will have to factor a Covid test into your holiday plans.

Because of the reported difficulties of getting tested in certain parts of the US, French authorities have introduced an exemption in certain circumstances, but this involves getting a certificate from your local French consulate before travel, which might have limited opening hours over the holiday period.

For the full rules on testing, click here.

In addition to the border rules, many airlines have brought in their own rules, particularly around mask type, so check carefully with your airline before you fly to ensure you have everything you need to comply with their rules.

Family visits from the US

If you have family in the US who are desperate to visit you in France over the holidays, maybe to see the grandkids after a long separation, then the news is less good.

Although the exemptions to the travel ban from the US do include 'urgent family reasons' this does not cover visits, no matter how much you are missing people.


Going via another country

We've been asked this by several readers – whether they can travel via another country such as the UK or Ireland to avoid French travel restrictions and the answer is that it's not advisable. 

The French rules don't specifically state that you cannot do this, but it is not in the spirit of the rules in place, which intend to allow only essential travel from the US.

Scrutiny at the border can be quite intense and although we have heard reports of people who have travelled successfully by this method we have also heard of people who were refused entry. And with the cost of transatlantic flights this is a costly gamble to take.  

We should stress that travel rules can change with little notice – keep an eye on our travel section for the latest.

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