Only a few months ago, travel to the USA seemed like an impossibility for the remainder of 2021. Infection numbers were skyrocketing and the USA was put on the 'red' list (forbidden to travel to) of almost every other country in the world, including the UK.
Yet the USA has made great strides in combatting the virus since then, perhaps more so than any other country in the world.
USA vaccinations unmatched
By now, the USA has had close to 300 million total vaccinations take place, far exceeding any other country in the world by sheer numbers. Of course, this number is somewhat inflated due to the USA's size and population, yet even a country like India has yet to reach the 200 million mark when it comes to vaccinations. When adjusted to per capita, the USA ranks fifth, just below the UK (fourth). As a result of the massive vaccination program, the number of daily new infection in the USA is rapidly dropping.
UK not far behind
The UK likewise has had a stellar vaccination campaign. In addition, it leads the world in daily new Covid-19 tests per 1,000 people. It is therefore no surprise that these two countries have been looking into possibilities to resume travel under certain conditions.
Previously, there were rumours that the USA might welcome British tourists again from mid-May. These rumours remained unconfirmed, however, and recently the US government has stated that there are no changes planned regarding travel restrictions that are currently in place.
Similarly, the USA is currently on the UK's 'amber' list with regards to international travel destinations. This means that travelling to the country is currently advised against by the British government, and returning travellers are subject to strict quarantine measures. Failure to meet them can result in heavy fines. For a while it was expected that the USA would be put on the 'green' list, countries of which returning travellers do not need to quarantine if they are tested negative for COVID-19. However, in the end the USA was not included in it.
ESTA travel still not possible
This means that the preferred method of travel for British citizens to the USA, the ESTA travel permit, remains virtually impossible. Other than a few exceptions, the USA currently does not accept European visitors.
This also applies to travellers that applied for and received an ESTA or a visa. These systems are still operating. As long as you meet the conditions, an ESTA will be approved if you apply for it. However, this does not mean you can automatically travel to the USA. The final decision regarding this is always taken by US border authorities.
A point to consider is that an ESTA is valid for two years. Each trip to the USA may last a maximum of 90 days. There is no limit to the number of trips you can make during this two year validity period. An ESTA that was approved this year can therefore potentially still be used if the travel restrictions are relaxed later this year or even next year.