Trip to the US postponed due to COVID-19? Here’s what you can do in the meantime
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown most people’s travel plans off schedule this year, not least for anyone hoping to travel to the US.
Since April this year, President Trump has released a series of Proclamations, effectively suspending almost all non-immigrant visas until the end of the year. These changes have meant that thousands of people have had to postpone their trip to America, including seasonal workers, scholars, tourists, exchange students and intracompany transfer workers.
While some of these rules have now been relaxed – students with visas will now be allowed to re-enter the country, for example – there’s no doubt that COVID-19 is still playing havoc with everyone’s US travel plans.
So, if you’re stuck at home refreshing the government website over and over again, we’ve got some ideas for how you can best prepare for your trip - in spite of the continued uncertainty.
1. Get your travel documents in order
Even if your trip to the US is postponed due to COVID-19, you may be able to make a start on getting your travel documents in order. Many US embassies around the world are now starting to accept appointments and process new applications, so why not fill in your application today and kick-start the process? Simply check with your local embassy to find out if your type of visa application is being processed right now.
If you already have your US visa and are hoping to travel to the US over the coming months, it may be worth getting a letter from your university or the head of your exchange programme to support your case for re-entry. While this won’t guarantee you get back in, it will at least help the immigration authorities understand why you need to return.
Of course, it’s always worth making sure your passport is still valid for at least six months on the date you plan to travel. If you have a few months to spare before travelling to the US, it’s the perfect chance to make sure all your docs are up to date.
2. Do a pre-travel life audit
If your trip to the US is postponed due to COVID-19, it might be a good time to consider what you really need to bring with you. We know it’s hard, but unless you want to spend a fortune on expensive transport firms, you’re going to need to channel your inner Marie Kondo.
According to travel blogger The Portable Wife, the stuff we need when moving abroad falls into three categories: practical, legal and sentimental.
The first category includes day-to-day stuff, like electronics, medication and clothes. The second is all our important documents. The third is anything important to us, like pictures of family or mementos from home.
As a rule of thumb, try and weigh up bulkiness and weight against cost and necessity. Pots and pans from the kitchen often aren’t worth taking with you, but pricey electronics may be. When sorting through clothes, ask yourself how often you really wear them, and how practical they are in the climate you’re moving to.
When sifting through your book selection, remember that most US cities have libraries and well-stocked bookstores. (And there’s always eBay and Amazon, too!) In this instance, just take your absolute favorites and any rare editions or books in your native language that can’t be easily replaced. We promise it’ll feel amazing travelling to the US as the new streamlined, minimalist you.
3. Get your bank account sorted
Did you know you can get your US bank account sorted before you’ve even arrived in the country? With Sable Card, all you need is a valid visa and your passport, and you’re set to go. You don’t even need a social security number.
Simply apply for an account with your documents to hand, and you’ll get your digital card in minutes. So even if your trip to the US has been postponed due to COVID-19, you’ll arrive completely prepared. You can get started finding accommodation, rent a car if you need to, and build up your US credit score from day one.
Once you’re set up with your US bank account, put together a skeletal budget for the first few months. Work out how much you have to spend from income and savings each month. Then estimate your monthly expenses like rent, travel, food and bills. Then factor in big one-off outlays like deposits, homeware and the cost of travelling to the US.
Just remember to keep track of your actual spending once you’re in the US to make sure you don’t go over-budget!
4. Stay positive – and plan ahead
Whether it’s for a semester or several years, moving to the United States should be an incredibly exciting time. If your trip to the US has been postponed due to COVID-19, why not do some dreaming and planning the meantime?
Find out about the hippest neighbourhoods in your new city. What does it cost to rent an apartment or room there? Look up the best places to eat out or see concerts. What’s the public transport like in your new city? What states or big cities do you want to visit while you’re there? Now is the time to dream big, and maybe plan out that once-in-a-lifetime road trip while you’re there.
If you’re heading to the US as a student, you may be able to find a Facebook group for freshman and introduce yourself. Just because you’re not on campus yet, it doesn’t mean you can’t get to know your fellow students!
If you’re still feeling confused about if and when you can travel, it’s best to get in touch with your local US embassy and ask. Many embassies have set up FAQ pages like this one for travellers from Schengen, packed with helpful, up to date information about COVID-19 and how it affects your visa.
Our last piece of advice? Stay positive. Having sorted out your visa, packed like a pro and got a US bank account in the bag, we know you’ll be travelling to the US on the front foot.