Travel restrictions

  • A number of countries restrict the entry or residence of people with HIV.

  • Restrictions are not always consistently enforced.

  • Restrictions can change with little notice and it is important to seek up to date information.

A number of countries restrict entry for people with HIV. This means that foreigners with HIV may be refused entry, denied permission to work or settle, or even be deported.

The situation is complex and changes from country to country. Some countries ban all foreign HIV-positive individuals from entering a country; others have no entry restrictions for tourists but require individuals to be HIV negative in order to apply for a work or residence permit. Broadly speaking, countries will have one or more of the following restriction categories for foreigners with HIV:

  • countries without restrictions

  • countries with an entry bar

  • countries with restrictions for short-term stays

  • countries with restrictions for long-term stays

  • countries with unclear laws

  • countries without information

  • countries deporting people with HIV.

How these restrictions are enforced varies. Compulsory HIV testing may be used by some countries, with a positive HIV test result leading to deportation. Health checks may be conducted in some areas, or proof of negative HIV status may be required. These restrictions may also apply where HIV testing and documentation is not necessary. In these circumstances, there is a threat of foreigners being deported if they are found to be HIV-positive whilst staying in the country.

Not all countries have specific immigration and tourism laws relating to HIV but this does not mean that declaring HIV status will not cause issues. If the law is unclear or there is no information, declaring HIV-positive status may still affect the granting or extension of a residence permit or result in refused entry.

Even where the legislation is written, there can still be confusion over how laws are implemented, leaving people unsure of what does, and does not, have to be declared when entering a country or applying for a visa.

However, on a more positive note, there are large numbers of countries which have legislation which clearly states that entry and permission to live and work will not be affected by HIV status. There are also several countries which do not require any type of medical tests either for short-term or long-term stays.

Checking current laws

Restrictions on entry and residence for HIV-positive individuals can change quickly and with very little notice. Before any travel arrangements are made, it is useful to check the UNAIDS website or the website www.hivtravel.org, which is provided by Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, the European AIDS Treatment Group and the International AIDS Society.

Information on yellow fever vaccination requirements can be obtained from the ‘Traveler’s Health’ section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/travel.

Moreover, it’s advisable to contact the embassy, High Commission or consulate of the destination country to make sure no recent changes to travel restrictions have been made. They should be able to provide up-to-date information. When contacting an embassy or consulate to ask about travel restrictions, an individual’s name and HIV status can be kept anonymous. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office website is a good place to start at www.fco.gov.uk. It may also be beneficial to contact an HIV organisation in the destination country to ask for information.

If a country does have entry restrictions, people with HIV who still decide to travel risk being refused entry or deported. It’s worth noting that some countries will offer waivers under certain circumstances, particularly if the trip is to visit family members, but they may be difficult to obtain.

For those with the right to live in an EU country, there should be no restrictions relating to HIV for travel or residence in other EU member states. However, access to HIV care will vary.

Examples of changes to travel restrictions

Travel restrictions for people with HIV can change quickly and so need to be checked before any trip. China and America are two examples of areas that lifted their restrictions on HIV-positive visitors in 2010.

In China, this announcement has not yet been accompanied by full legislation and so the situation is still unclear. Caution is needed before travelling.

Previously, the US travel ban prevented visits to the US by people with HIV, except in exceptional circumstances. An ‘HIV waiver’ could only be obtained if the traveller was one of the following:

  • the spouse of a US citizen or legal permanent resident

  • the unmarried son or daughter of a US citizen or legal permanent resident

  • the minor, unmarried, lawfully adopted child of a US citizen

  • the parent of a son or daughter who is a US citizen or legal permanent resident

  • eligible to self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act

  • a refugee or asylee who falls under a ‘humanitarian’ exception.

Although the ban was widely flouted, individuals with HIV who were detected by US immigration staff were refused entry to the country and deported.

Following the removal of this ban in January 2010, HIV-positive individuals can now legally visit and migrate to the US. European passport holders who have HIV and wish to visit the US will now be able to do so by completing the green 'visa waiver' form that allows routine entry to the US. HIV has also ceased to be a bar for migration to the US. This means that visa applicants will no longer be questioned about their HIV status and lawful permanent-resident applicants will no longer be tested for HIV. This also means that neither visitors nor green-card applicants have to submit an ‘HIV waiver’ anymore.

In countries where restrictions have been recently changed, extra caution needs to be taken if discussing HIV status.  If someone with HIV flouted the regulation and travelled into a country when the ban was in place, they could still be open to deportation following a travel ban being lifted. This could happen if there was proof that the individual knew of their HIV-positive status when the ban was in place and still entered the country. In this circumstance, the individual would have broken the law in the past and could be deported for that reason.

 

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.