The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced the implementation of COVID-19 testing requirements for all international arrivals by air to the U.S.
With the new protocols to come in effect as of January 26th, here’s a look at everything you need to know about the requirements.
Who is Affected?
The new testing requirements are mandatory upon all travelers, over the age of two, arriving to the US on international flights, including US citizens and residents.
This also applies to travelers on private jets and chartered flights.
Who is Exempt?
The CDC is providing exceptions for the program to children under two years of age, federal law-enforcement agents, members of military traveling for duty, and airline crews.
When Will Changes Take Place?
The new requirements will be enforced on all incoming international flights beginning January 26th, 2021.
If you are arriving to the US before that date, you will not be required to present proof of a COVID-19 test, however, testing requirements for travelers from the UK have been enforced since last month.
What If I’m Traveling by Car?
Travelers entering the US by land border are not subject to the new testing requirements, though US land borders are currently closed for non-essential travel.
When Do I Need to Get Tested?
The CDC requires the test date to be no more than 72 hours before the scheduled departure.
Who Checks Test Results?
Travelers are required to provide their test results in a paper or digital copy to the airline they are traveling with.
What Kind of Test Is Acceptable?
Airlines are allowed to accept both COVID-19 PCR and rapid-antigen tests.
What If I Have Been Vaccinated?
Travelers that have been vaccinated are not exempt and will be required to provide negative COVID-19 test results.
What If My Test Comes Back Positive?
Unfortunately, if your test result is positive you will be unable to board your scheduled flight and be advised to quarantine.
Once recovered, you may use the positive test result and a doctor’s letter of recovery to board your re-scheduled flight, as long as it is within three months of the positive test result.
What If I Previously Tested Positive for COVID-19?
For travelers that have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last three months, the CDC advises them not to get tested again.
The positive test result, and a letter of recovery from a medical professional, health-care provider or public-health official may be substituted for a negative test result.
What If I Choose Not to Get Tested?
If a traveler refuses to take a test or provide test results, the airlines will refuse them from boarding.
What If I Need to Change My Travel Plans?
Most US airlines have eliminated change fees or granted temporary exemptions in light of the pandemic.
For travelers looking to rebook their future travel plans to before January 26th to avoid the testing requirements, United, American and Delta are giving their customers the option to rebook to an earlier date and waive fare differences for higher last minute bookings.
What If My Flight Is Delayed?
If your flight is delayed to a point in which your test results fall out of the required 72-hour period, you will need to get re-tested.
What If I’m Traveling for Less Than Three Days?
All international travelers entering the US by air will be required to provide negative COVID-19 test results. If your trip is less than 72 hours, you may be able to get tested in the US before departure and use those test results to return, granted they fall within the 72-hour period.
Do I Need to Get Re-Tested After Arriving?
The CDC is advising travelers to get re-tested three-to-five days after travel and stay home for seven days, though this is not mandatory. The CDC advises travelers which choose not to get tested after arriving to self-isolate for ten days.
What About Transiting Passengers?
The CDC has posted on their website that passengers in transit will need to fulfill the testing requirement, as any flight entering the US will require testing before departure.
What Countries Does It Apply to?
All countries are subject to the requirements. All travelers arriving from any international country will need to show proof of a negative test.
In some cases, the CDC order is allowing airlines to apply for a 14-day waiver for certain countries that have insufficient testing capacities, though it is unclear at this time as to which countries fall into this category. The CDC order grants this waiver to a country that “lacks available SARS-CoV-2 testing capacity.”
Are U.S. Territories Exempt?
If you’re traveling from a US territory such as Guam, Puerto Rico, or US Virgin Islands, you will not be required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Does This Mean There Is No Travel Ban?
The borders continue to be closed to most foreign nationals from the EU, UK, Brazil, China, and Iran. Though, airlines have been pushing for testing programs to be implemented to increase the prospect of opening borders. There is some speculation that the new testing requirements may lead to an easing of border restrictions in the future.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories