For families in Europe, the end of the US travel ban is a fresh start

For families in Europe, the end of the US travel ban is a fresh start


For Katie Wait, the coronavirus pandemic was more than a year and a half of uncertainty. It also meant she was separated from her parents, brother, and extended family in Florida for months.

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For Katie Wait, the coronavirus pandemic was more than a year and a half of uncertainty. It also meant she was separated from her parents, brother, and extended family in Florida for months.

Missed birthdays. Art celebrated milestones. Lost time together.

“It was just the most mentally and emotionally challenging year you really want to have your family in,” said Wait, suddenly overwhelmed by tears. “It was hard.”

On Monday, she was one of many in Europe and the world to be delighted when the Biden government announced an 18-month travel ban from 33 countries including the UK, European Union member states, Brazil, China, India, Iran and South Africa, would be repealed.

The travel ban was not a mere inconvenience to Wait and countless others: it destroyed jobs, thwarted opportunities, and built an immovable wall between them and their families or partners.

The US started travel bans at the beginning of the pandemic to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The bans have been extended to other nations in the wake of the ongoing outbreaks. But they have angered the UK and nations in the European Union, especially after those countries abolished quarantine rules and welcomed fully vaccinated travelers from the US earlier this summer.

When the United States did not immediately respond, officials were annoyed. (When the Delta variant spread over the summer, the European Union reversed its course and recommended that member states restrict travel from the US again.)

Over the months, thousands of family members and partners gathered online to share their experiences using the hashtag #LoveIsNotTourism to raise awareness of their plight.

Wait, who had to cancel a trip to catch up with the family in March 2020 and has not seen her parents since 2019, found the support there vital. She, her husband, and 9-year-old daughter are British, but Wait’s parents and brother have lived in St. Augustine, Florida for 17 years and are US citizens.

“You never expected that you couldn’t reach them if they lived in America,” she said. “You never think that in a million years something like this will happen that the border will be closed.”

Some people found ways – often expensive or laborious – to circumvent the ban by traveling to a third country to circumvent the rule.

When his ex-wife died in Italy in June 2020, Francesco Sacca, 44, an Italian entrepreneur who lives in Florida, immediately flew back to the country. But he and his children, who are 15 and 17 years old, were banned from traveling.

They managed to fly to Costa Rica, spend two weeks there, and then enter the United States, but in the months that followed, Sacca had to travel repeatedly to Italy to take care of the death. To return to the USA, he had to spend two weeks in Colombia or in the United Arab Emirates or in Qatar each time, which cost a total of 80,000 euros or 93,000 dollars.

But what worried him most was leaving his children alone in Florida.

“Every morning I think of my 15-year-old, who is riding her bike to the bus stop alone in the dark,” he said over the phone from Doha, the capital of Qatar. “All because of this travel ban.”

For most people, such an expensive workaround wasn’t an option.

Finding news of the ban’s lifting has become a daily ritual for some.

“It was very hard not to think about it,” said Wait.

Now that the uncertainty is finally over, Wait has booked flights to see her parents in November.

For Lucrezia Tassi, 24, it was not family but professional plans that had gotten out of reach by the ban. Tassi is an Italian from Caravaggio, a town near the northern city of Bergamo, where some of the deadliest moments of the early days of the pandemic played out.

Because of the ban, she paused her plans to be an au pair for a family in Seattle for more than a year. She said the uncertainty also prevented her from moving on with her life.

“I couldn’t look for a small job or book a concert ticket because I didn’t know if I’d be here in a month,” she said.

Alejandro Gaebelt, a Spanish sales manager who lives in Madrid, said the Biden government’s decision to change travel rules was a positive postponement but it was too late.

Gaebelt’s sister lives in the United States and he planned to travel with his wife and two children this summer to visit them, but the ban made their plans impossible.

“We lost a great family day out,” he said.

Lucia Vidal lost her job after being bogged down in Italy due to the travel ban. Vidal, 33, an Italian who had worked as a nanny in Washington for seven years, was home to extend her visa when the Trump administration announced the ban and was unable to return.

After she was stuck in Italy for over a year, her employer fired her. She couldn’t even go back to the United States to get her things.

“It’s been 10 years of life in America,” she said. “I’ve always paid taxes, my friends are there. Now that I’ve lost my job, I feel lost. “

Elide Vincenti, 30, was unable to take up a job in Miami as she was also back in Italy to get a visa when the ban became known. She was prevented from visiting her boyfriend in New York for more than a year. Her friends in Miami took her things to a storage room, but since she didn’t pick them up for months, they were eventually thrown away.

“I have nothing left,” she said.

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