It was about a year ago that Johan left to go on trials to Europe. What a difference a year makes. Back then, airports were packed, air fares were expensive and just having an American passport was the key to any destination in the world. Today, that is no longer the case. Airports are ghost towns, air fares are not really inexpensive per se and traveling to Europe is REALLY challenging.
With the European Union current ban on travelers from the United States (reciprocity stinks, huh?), it has become extremely difficult to travel to Europe if you are a non-essential (to my dismay, football isn’t) individual/worker. Johan recently tried to return to Portugal and we had to go through a lot (two attempts) of hurdles to be able to board a plane. It would have been nice to have all/some of this information before we showed up to the airport so figured, we’d share it with you as there is a lot of misinformation out there. At the end of the day, it is very situational; however, we know local families who are sending players abroad very soon (good luck in Denmark, Germany, Spain, Portugal, etc.). Each situation/destination is unique so take this info with a grain of salt but here is what you may need.
Note: Unless you are an essential worker (ex. doctor, nurse, diplomat, etc.) or a worker with a unique skill (footballers fall in this category but you have to prove it), you will NOT be allowed to travel to Europe. There may be other allowed classifications based on the country you are visiting but know that American tourists will not be allowed in Europe for a while.
Note II: The good news is that the travel ban is reevaluated every 2 weeks so keep checking as your visiting country may reopen their borders back to the US.
US Passport: As a US citizen, you must have a US passport to even have a chance to depart the US. It helps (a lot), if you are a dual citizen of the visiting country (ex. Germany, Portugal, Spain, etc.) or have a foreign passport that allows you to enter ANY country in Europe (or even better, a passport of the visiting country specifically). Having a foreign passport can waive the US passport requirement depending on the visiting country’s laws. The *challenge* is to make it to European soil. Once there, everything is much easier.
COVID-19 negative test result: Most countries (maybe all) require travelers to present proof of a negative test result taken 72 hours prior to departure. This is very important. Take into account any layovers (especially overnight) and ensure compliance all the way through the destination country.
Nice to have’s:
EU passport: Depending on your final destination, having an official document from the country you are traveling to is extremely useful. Short of a passport, maybe a residence card (analogous to a green card in the US).
Residence card: As a US citizen, this may not be very common but depending on how long you have been residing abroad, this may be a possibility. If you have access to a residence card (or proof that you are in the process of acquiring it), that documentation should be sufficient to travel to your destination. In Johan’s case, having a copy of his residency application helped a lot. Unfortunately, we didn’t have it translated into English and we were sent packing the first time.
Letter from the traveling country’s consulate/embassy: With government offices barely opening everywhere, this may be difficult to expedite. However, if you are able to obtain a letter from an official government office from the visiting country stating that you should be allowed to enter, the letter (in official letterhead) can go a long way. Make sure the letter is written in both languages (the visiting country’s and English). This document will be presented in the US (at the airline counter) to backup reasons for being allowed to travel to Europe. Having a document written in a foreign language (w/out a translator at the airport) could be detrimental and delay check-in. This is very important as you never know the type of push back you could receive from the airline person at the counter. Make sure you have all official documentation with your son’s/daughter’s name spelled out correctly AND with a current date.
Work/Player contract: If you have your work (football) contract, it should help further justify the reasons for traveling. If you have such document in a foreign language, make sure you translate it before you present it at the US airline ticket counter. In addition to the contract, if you can, have a letter from the football club (an official declaration) stating that your player is “registered” with the club and under contract. This is almost the same as the contract except that it gives more credibility to a “long”, foreign language written contract that can not be easily translated.
Layover documentation: If your footballer has any stops during his/her flight, there may be additional documentation that needs to be filled out indicating that his/her stay is transitional and not as a final destination. Johan had a layover in France and the french government had different entry requirements than the Spanish government.
In these uncertain times, there are so many imponderables that could impact your chances of a “smooth” departure to Europe. Some may include the US state your player is traveling from (restrictions out of Texas are stricter than restrictions out of Kentucky), person at the airline ticket counter (this is by far the hardest hurdle to clear), airline, travel date, number of layovers, final destination, support from the club, player agency, etc. In our case, FC Porto went above and beyond to support Johan’s return to Portugal. We can only acknowledge their relentless assistance and professionalism towards us. Both times, when Johan traveled to the US a few months back and now, they have been a class act. Thank you FC Porto: #DragõesJuntos
The key is preparation. There are many factors to describe them in any level of detail in one post but we feel like we need to get this information out to the public to serve its full purpose. The “logistics” and sequence in which you present the documentation above plays an important role. Minimize the uncertainty and be prepared. It will pay off.
At the writing of this post, info in this post has helped at least four families initially being denied plane boarding (same airline). Please reach out if you need assistance with your questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be glad to assist. It’s an extremely important trip and not planning well for it could have not just a financial impact on your family but a deeper footballing impact. Be prepared for some resistance at the US airline ticket counter, once you clear this hurdle, you are pretty much good to go. COVID is changing the travel industry significantly especially for footballers.
Helping each other, we will grow the sport in this country. Change starts at the bottom (points at self). #theGomezway