Scenes of joy as first travellers arrive in the US after a 20-month ban
The United States on Monday reopened its borders to double-jabbed visitors, ending the restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump in March 2020.
The travel limitations have affected non-US citizens from over 30 countries, including the UK and EU, separating families and stalling tourism.
A flood of visitors landed on Monday.
“It feels good, it feels good!” Jerome Thomann, head of Paris-based travel agency Jetset Voyages told Reuters news agency, saying his team had seen an “incredible upturn” in bookings.
Restrictions have been lifted for those who are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.
Two flights from London’s Heathrow airport landed in New York City – marking the return of one of the world’s busiest flight paths. Travellers arriving at John F Kennedy airport were greeted by applause, balloons and cookies.
Alison Henry, a 63-year-old British mother, told AFP news agency: “It’s been so hard – I just want to see my son.”
Ms Henry, from Cheshire, plans to fly to New York on Monday to see her son for the first time in 20 months.
The US land borders with neighbours Canada and Mexico will also reopen for the fully vaccinated.
Thousands of migrants have arrived in areas along Mexico’s border with the US, hoping to take advantage of the newly relaxed rules.
In southern Mexico, a new caravan of thousands of mainly Central American migrants – many of them children – has crossed from Chiapas to Oaxaca state, with the ultimate aim of reaching the border and being accepted into the US.
The Migrant Alliance Group, a Mexico-based advocacy group, has warned that false information is being spread about the new rules in some communities – with many asylum seekers assuming that they will now receive more favourable treatment from border officials.
Businesses in cities along the border with Mexico are hoping for a boost after struggling under America’s Covid restrictions.
United Airlines says it expects a 50% rise in international inbound passengers, while Delta’s chief executive Ed Bastian warned travellers to expect queues.
Mr Bastian said: “It’s going to be a bit sloppy at first. I can assure you, there will be lines unfortunately.”
The EU recommended allowing American travellers into the bloc in June, while visitors from the US have been able to travel to the UK since 28 July.