Holiday Travel: Restrictions on travel to Germany for non-business purposes

With the upcoming holiday season, Germans in the U.S. are eager to visit Germany. In this brief overview, we intend to provide you with answers and resources to FAQs concerning the current travel restrictions for tourism purposes to the E.U., and specifically to Germany. The answers to these FAQs are intended to provide only general information. They are not complete and reflect a variety of questions and concerns we have received from the German-American community. Please note that there are different restrictions related to business travel to Germany that are not part of this update.  Each individual case is different, and the FAQs are not intended to replace legal advice. The answers to these FAQs are current as of November 15, 2020 We hope that you find them helpful.

1. Are the travel restrictions for travel from the U.S. to Germany still in effect?

Yes.  The United States is not included in the E.U. “safe list” of countries, and entry to Germany from the U.S. is currently restricted.

Generally speaking, all persons that reside in a third country that is not on the “safe list” may enter Germany only if there is an urgent need to travel. As of now, the United States is still considered a risk area. Such entry restrictions do not apply to German or E.U.  citizens and their immediate family members, or third country nationals who hold a residence permit in Germany or member state of the E.U. There are additional exceptions that can be found on the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Communit (“BMI”) webpage.

2. I’m a German citizen, can I enter Germany?

Yes, German citizens with an unexpired German passport may enter Germany. However, as of November 8, 2020 all travelers intending to travel to Germany have to register online prior to travel if they were present in a risk area (which includes the United States) within 10 days immediately prior to their contemplated travel to Germany.  Travelers must present proof of this registration when entering Germany.

3. I’m a German citizen residing in the U.S. My spouse (and children) are U.S. citizens only. Can we enter Germany for the Christmas Holiday season?

Yes, the immediate family members of a German citizen are permitted to enter Germany for short term family visits, irrespective of whether they travel together with the German citizen or not.  “Immediate family members” of a German citizen are defined as the spouse or registered domestic partner, minor children of the German citizen, or the parents of minor (German citizen) children.

4. What documentation do I need to provide upon entry to Germany as an immediate family member?

When entering Germany in the immediate family category (FAQ 3, above), each traveler must present a valid passport, as well as the registration for travelers from risk areas (see FAQ 2, above).  In general, U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Germany for family visits, but citizens of other foreign countries may need one.  Additionally, you must provide certified documentation to prove the immediate family relationship.  These documents must be either legalized or contain an Apostille authenticating the certification of the documents.

Examples of qualifying documents include marriage certificates or certificates of registered domestic partnership, birth certificates and notarized extracts from the family record or the civil status registry.

As in all other cases, the final decision to permit entry to Germany will be made by the border control agent at the German port of entry.

5. I’m a U.S. citizen and my boyfriend / girlfriend resides in Germany. May I visit him/her over the holidays? What documents do I need to provide?

Yes, provided the following requirements are met.  You are in a long-term relationship and have met your German boy/girl-friend in Germany, or recently shared a residence outside of Germany.  You need to provide the following documents:

  • A valid passport, with a visa, if applicable; proof of pre-travel registration (see FAQ 2, above);
  • an invitation letter from your German boy/girl-friend, together with copies of their German identity documents; and
  • a jointly signed declaration attesting to the relationship with the contact details of each party. There is a form which can be downloaded on the webpage of the BMI.

Additional documentation such as social media and or E-mail correspondence might be acceptable too. However, in all cases, the final decision to permit entry to Germany will be made by the border control agent at the German port of entry.

6. I’m a U.S. citizen without any immediate family members in Germany, but I want to visit relatives over the holidays. May I enter Germany?

It depends. Entry to Germany is restricted to immediate relatives. First and second-degree relatives who are third-country nationals may enter Germany only for demonstrated urgent family reasons. First and second-degree family members include adult children, parents of adult children, siblings and grandparents. 

“Urgent family reasons” are births, weddings, deaths or funerals, and serious illness of a first- or second-degree family member. When traveling you should present documentary proof for the urgent family reason upon seeking entry to Germany.

Third country nationals who wish to visit more distant family members and who are not either immediate family members or first and second-degree family member are currently not allowed to enter Germany for family reasons.

7. I’m an E-2 Visa holder and German citizen. After visiting Germany, will I be admitted back into the U.S.?

Pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 9993 of March 11, 2020, any person who was present in a country of the Schengen area within 14 days of an attempted entry to the United States are banned from travel to the U.S.  The travel ban remains in effect at this time and continues in effect until terminated by the president. However, there are exceptions to the ban. Please visit our outline for exceptions to the “Schengen Travel Ban” or contact us if you have any questions.

8. Who makes the ultimate decision to permit entry to Germany?

The agency charged with border protection and passport control is the Federal Police (Bundespolizei). The passport officer at the port of entry makes the ultimate decision on entry to Germany. You can contact the Federal Police in Germany with questions concerning a proposed trip.  

9. May I transit through Germany?

Yes.  In general, nationals of countries outside of the E.U. (third-country nationals) are recommended to travel to the country of their final destination directly. However, third-country nationals may enter Germany in transit to another Schengen member state or the United Kingdom if (1). the traveler will continue on to travel to their final destination without delay; and (2). the traveler is eligible for admission to the destination country or another transit country.

Third-country nationals may enter Germany by air and continue overland to their country of final destination.  Upon entry to Germany as a transit traveler, these nationals must provide proof of compliance with the above two conditions for transit through Germany. Such evidence includes airline tickets or other travel documentation and documentation issued by the competent authorities of the destination country/ and or additional transit country certifying that entry restrictions have been waived or that admission will been granted.

10. What are the quarantine requirements in Germany ?

Recently, the quarantine requirements were changed significantly. Most importantly, as of November 8, 2020, all travelers to Germany who have been physically present in an “at risk” country (which includes the United States) must register online. Travelers must present proof of this registration when entering Germany. Moreover, such travelers are required to proceed directly to their place of stay and self-quarantine for a period of 10 days.

Individuals who present a negative COVID-19 test after 5 days of quarantine, may terminate the self-quarantine earlier.

For the month of November 2020, hotels and other hospitality businesses are no longer permitted to offer overnight accommodation to tourists.

The individual German States may have additional COVID-19 related regulations and requirements.  All travelers are therefore advised to review these on the webpage of the respective German state (Länder).

*Update: on November 20, 2020, the OVG Münster provisionally suspended essential parts of the North Rhine-Westphalian Corona Entry Ordinance with regard to incoming and return travelers.