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International travel remains a challenge

Editor's note: This story was updated July 31 to include recent policy changes by the Bahamian government.

Restrictions on non-essential international travel continue to proliferate, with many such measures recently extended and some previous easing now being reversed.

The Bahamian government reinstated a prohibition on commercial air travel to the islands effective July 22. Private air travel remained permitted, with some exceptions and additional requirements. Photo by Chris Rose.

The United States, Mexico, and Canada have all extended limits on non-essential international travel through August 20, and the Bahamian government imposed but later rescinded a prohibition on commercial air travel in July, though arriving citizens and visitors are subject to COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements. As countries around the world grapple with outbreaks, or move to prevent COVID-19 resurgence, travel restrictions will likely remain subject to change for as long as the global pandemic continues. Notices published July 22 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security detailed the extension through August 20 of measures previously enacted to limit international arrivals to the United States from Canada and Mexico

As detailed in the Federal Register notices, the restrictions, issued in conjunction with bilateral agreements between the countries, do not limit the return of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to the United States. Departing the country is another matter.

AOPA advised members to carefully consider international flights, and to be aware that most countries are discouraging tourism and other travel deemed non-essential. A thorough briefing must include checking with the customs authorities at the intended destination for up-to-date information on requirements and clearance procedures. Contacting the airport authorities in advance to confirm availability of required services, including customs clearance and FBO services, is also a sound practice.

Canada has stringent requirements for incoming travelers, and notes online that the Canada Border Services Agency considers several factors when determining if any given flight will be permitted to enter the country. Arrivals from the United States must be traveling for an essential purpose, have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19, and plan on a 14-day quarantine unless exempted, according to the most current guidance.

The bilateral agreement restricting non-essential travel between the United States and Mexico has also been extended through August 20. Hospitals in Southern California have been stretched thin in recent months, and up to half of the COVID-19 patients being treated are U.S. citizens and permanent residents who live in or recently visited Baja California.

The Bahamian government had eased travel restrictions effective July 1, but announced July 19 that because of an increase in COVID-19 cases in the United States, along with an uptick in the Bahamas, the island nation would once again prohibit commercial air and sea arrivals effective July 22. That directive was replaced on July 24 with a new policy and procedures further updated July 30 that do not restrict arrivals by air or sea, per se, but do require proof of health and application for a "Bahamas Health Visa" in advance of travel. The application is online, and submissions must include a negative COVID-19 test result dated within 10 days. Visitors may be subject to quarantine requirements, and to a $200 fine for not wearing a face mask in areas where they are required.

With restrictions subject to change around the world, government-run websites including DHS and the European Union are useful resources for anyone contemplating an international trip.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Advocacy, Travel, Bahamas

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