As travel to the United States changes, global travelers look forward to meetings

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Across the United States on Monday, airports expect to be filled with people reuniting with significant others, parents and friends from the 33 countries that have been banned from traveling directly to the United States for more than a year and a half.

Luise Greve, 23, from Erlangen, Germany, is among the travelers who bought the first flight that would take them alongside their loved one as soon as while the White House announced that the trip would open November 8 to fully vaccinated visitors from previously banned countries.

With the new rules, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter the United States if they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three calendar days of travel. Unvaccinated Americans and children under the age of 18 are exempt from the requirement, but must undergo a coronavirus test within 24 hours of travel.

Ms. Greve last saw her boyfriend in March 2020 – “just under 600 days ago,” she noted – when she visited him for three weeks in Sedalia, Mo.

The pair met in early 2019 when they were randomly assigned to be part of the same castle-building “guild” in Lords Mobile, a cooperative game they play on their phones. About a week before his return to Germany during their March 2020 visit to the United States suspended most travel from Europe. As the pandemic dragged on, her 20-year-old boyfriend could have visited her in Germany. But his job offered no vacation days and he couldn’t afford to quit.

Ms. Greve, who is a college student, had plans to use a workaround used by many frustrated travelers during the pandemic and enter the United States after spending two weeks in Canada. But before he could do that, the White House announced it would lift the travel ban. Once officials announced the date, she secured a flight departing Neuremberg at 6am on Monday and arriving, after several stopovers, in Kansas City at 20:27 that night.

Before her trip on Friday, she was excited but nervous. At check-in, he will have to show his test vaccination and a negative coronavirus test result. He didn’t allow himself to hope.

“I’m just worried that things will go wrong because things have gone wrong throughout the pandemic,” she said. “Once I’m in Kansas City, I can breathe again after a year and a half.”

Beatrice Fratini, 24, who lives about an hour from Venice, also expressed hesitation that her reunion with her American boyfriend would actually take place Monday night in Washington, DC. The travel ban traumatized her, she said.

“I’m excited, but I won’t believe it until I’m there,” she said.

These long separations can put pressure on relationships, noted Giulia Polvara who lives near Milan. Ms. Polvara, 30, will travel to the United States next Saturday, the first day of absence from work after the ban was lifted. Mr. Polvara met her “special friend” as she calls him in December 2020 when she was visiting her sister in New York City. They spent a busy week together.

He was supposed to visit him at the beginning of March 2020, but then the Lombardy region, one of the parts of Europe most affected by the coronavirus, he was in solitary confinement, which meant he couldn’t even leave his hometown near Lake Como to get to the airport. When Italy eased restrictions on Lombardy, the United States had banned most of the visitors from Europe.

“There is so much to build for this event,” he said. “I am very happy. I am also afraid of being disappointed or that he will be disappointed.”

The man she is going to visit could not come to Europe, because he is an Iranian living in New York City and was waiting for the United States to issue his green card. The same week the ban was lifted, his green card was issued, he said.

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