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Is It Ethical To Hack International Border Rules This Way?

by joeheg

As part of running our website, we follow posts on Facebook and Twitter which give us an idea about what people are talking about on the interwebs. Over the past week, I’ve seen numerous Tweets and RTs about an issue I’m having mixed thoughts about. While we have no details on the particulars, the underlying issue is one where I find myself surprisingly conflicted.

Is it wrong to exploit gaps in the rules to enter places you’d otherwise be unable to visit?

For example, if you lived in the United Kingdom and wanted or needed to visit the United States, what would you do to make that happen?

As per the current border restrictions, you wouldn’t be able to visit the US directly from the UK. As per the CDC:

With specific exceptions, several Presidential proclamations suspend and limit entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of noncitizens who were physically present within the following countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. 

  • China
  • Iran
  • European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
  • United Kingdom  (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Brazil
  • South Africa
  • India

Non-US residents can’t enter the US if they’ve been to any of these countries for 14 days before their arrival, regardless of vaccination status or a negative COVID test required for anyone else entering the US. Some countries listed include ones with higher vaccination and lower infection rates than the US, meaning someone leaving from Iceland can’t visit the COVID hotbed of Florida. It doesn’t make much sense, does it?

However, rules are rules. People from the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Brazil, and other countries would love the visit the US but have had to put their holidays (vacations) on hold because of the restrictions.

But if what you could get around those restrictions?

Since we live in Orlando and still visit the theme parks, we can tell you there are still plenty of foreign accents to be heard. While some of the theme park visitors live in the US, I’m sure some are traveling from elsewhere. How’d they get here?

It turns out that if you have the time and the money, there’s almost always a way to get around the rules.

For example, nothing keeps you from traveling to a country not on the excluded list for 2 weeks before flying to the US. For people wanting to visit on holiday, that’s a bit of a financial and time stretch. But if you don’t have any financial or work restrictions, feel free to work around the rules and there’s nothing we will say or do about it.

I’ve read about business people who needed to hold meetings in the US flying to Mexico or other non-excluded countries first. They worked from a hotel for 2 weeks before catching a flight to the US. They had to follow whatever restrictions were in place when returning home, but those rules are usually less restrictive and there are ways to get around them as well.

Using these workarounds might be acceptable when it’s for your job, but what about for a leisure trip?

I understand there’s a great deal of frustration for people who can’t visit the US right now because of restrictions. To them, the people going around the rules are just bragging about how they can travel while others can’t. As people who’ve been following guidelines and rules for the past 18 months, they want everyone to do the same.

People finding ways to hack border restrictions isn’t new. Plenty of people found loopholes to get around the closed US-Canada border.

The core of this question is should you be mad at someone who is following the letter of the law but not its intent?

That depends on how strongly you believe in the rules that people are breaking. If you feel that avoiding the restrictions puts you and others at risk, it’s appropriate to be angry. But if the rule doesn’t seem to make much sense, maybe you aren’t as upset when someone works around the edges.

As a rule follower, I want everyone to do the same. Restrictions are put in place for a reason. However, I don’t feel that traveling to a country for 2 weeks before coming to the US to get around the entry rules is inappropriate. If they have the time and money to do so and submit the same negative COVID test as everyone else, they’re no more or less of a risk than anyone else flying to the US.

However, I respect those who have a different opinion. Your Mileage May Vary. 

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

8 comments

George September 9, 2021 - 3:17 pm

Lol, not unethical at all. It’s necessary these days to do so if you’re traveling for fun.

Stupid, arbitrary and outdated ‘rules’ should be ignored, or gone around.
That’s what we’re all doing, and it works just fine.

Annoying, but, who would listen to government mandates at this point?
Just ignore them and go around.

It’s the MOST ethical thing to do.
It’s UNETHICAL to follow awful, arbitrary government ‘mandates’
That’s pretty obvious at this point

Reply
albert September 9, 2021 - 4:22 pm

There’s always the “coyote” option to get in. Sell it as a adventure itinerary or something. Fly the fam to Mexico, hire a coyote and cross the boarder. No issues getting in that way, and could probably lobby for a free flight to Florida.

Fly business class home to Europe. Could be fun for the right traveler.

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NB September 9, 2021 - 6:09 pm

It’s not really a hack when the rules only apply to foreigners who have been in the banned countries in the last 14 days. So you have to be 1) a foreigner AND 2) in one of the banned countries. That’s not a hack but a feature. It’s nuts, of course, but part of the deliberate design.

Reply
Peter September 9, 2021 - 9:27 pm

This is no hack at all. It’s following the rules and laws. The rule is because of COVID and the status of these countries in the past. The status has changed but you know how fast governments operate. The US is not banning these citizens, it’s just because of their location. Do the rules make sense? Not much. There are also other ways to travel to the US without going 14 days to a different country, even if you have been in one of the banned countries, however they won’t work for leisure, but are simple for business.

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Brian L. September 9, 2021 - 10:54 pm

Unless they’re actually breaking the letter of the rules, I have no problem whatsoever with this. The vast majority of travel restrictions at this point are stupid, pointless, and based far more on politics than on “health.” The US government could close the loopholes if they really wanted to (more evidence that this is political).

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Tim September 10, 2021 - 5:10 am

How is it “getting around the rules” when someone is exactly following the rules. The law is you can’t have been in UK, EU, Brasil etc in last 14 days to enter US

If one has not been in those places in last 14 days when they enter the US, then end of story.

They are not “getting around the rules” at all. They are following the law to a T. And actually going to great lengths and expense to make sure they do follow the law

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Gentleman Jack Darby September 10, 2021 - 6:46 am

No, one shouldn’t be mad at the people taking advantage of the U.S. laziness in enforcing it’s entry rules; one SHOULD be mad at the appropriate U.S. officials who made the rules, likely knowing (or should have known) that there was a loophole that could be worked around.

After all, most of those people are likely travelling on a passport showing clearly that they’re citizens of a banned country so it can’t be that hard for border control agents to enforce a PROPERLY conceived and written rule.

Judging by the list of banned countries, if the U.S. banned anyone holding those passports, without regard to which country to which they last entered, it wouldn’t be much of a loss. After all, as the old saying goes, payback is a b–ch.

It’s about time the U.S. starts treating foreign nationals in, or attempting to enter, the U.S. as those countries treat our citizens and expats.

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AngryFlier September 10, 2021 - 10:08 am

There’s nothing unethical about taking advantage of a loophole in rules that were arbitrarily set for purely political reasons. And I applaud those who are smart enough to figure out how to avoid them.

Reply

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