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

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.

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

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.

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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Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).