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U.S. Will Require Negative Covid Test For All Travelers

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Amidst rising COVID-19 cases across the nation, the US Government is deciding to change its stance on testing requirements for travelers looking to enter the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday that all international travelers arriving by air in the United States, even U.S. citizens returning home, will need to present proof of negative COVID-19 test results. 

The order is set to come into effect on January 26th

masked traveler with suitcase airport

The decision is made in an attempt to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19, as well as variants of the newly emerging SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Regarding the new protocols, the CDC announcement states:

“Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19. This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans.”

The testing requirements are expected to be put in place for an indefinite period of time, until a higher percentage of the American public becomes vaccinated. 

At this point in time, CDC data shows over nine million Americans have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Although the testing requirements will not come into effect until later this month, we have received reports from travelers flying with US airlines having already received emails notifying them of the requirements and linking them to CDC’s website. 

US airlines email update

Courtesy of our friends at Travel Off Path Community

Testing Protocols

All incoming air passengers to the U.S. will be required to get a viral test within three days prior to their flight departure to the states.

Written documentation of a laboratory test result (paper or written copy) must be provided to the airlines the traveler is flying with prior to departure. 

Airlines are responsible for verifying and confirming documentation for negative test results before boarding. 

Failure to provide adequate documentation or refusal to take a test will resort in denied boarding to the passenger. 

passengers airport waiting to board pandemic

For those who test positive, they would be required to quarantine and recover to travel on a later date, and provide documentation of their recovery to the airline prior to departure.

While the new testing protocol is not seen as a method to completely eliminate transmission from travel, it is seen as an effective protocol to reduce risk.

In this aspect, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield states:

“Testing does not eliminate all risk, but when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations.”

Travelers wait at LaGuardia airport to board a flight to Cancun

The CDC further advises travelers to get tested again three-to-five days after travel and stay home for a week post-travel as a precaution. 

International Travel Seeing Surge

The new testing requirements come at a time when international arrivals to the US are on the uptick. 

In an interview with USA Today, CDC’s Director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, Martin Cetron, reported that there were 2.1 million international arrivals between December 1st through December 28th.

This accounts to roughly 76,000 passengers a day and four times the number of passengers in June. 

Passengers wear masks at airport

The winter weather commanding vacationers to head south to the Caribbean and Central and South Americas is a key factor in the surge of international travel. 

Testing Requirements Were on Horizon

While the US is now making testing mandatory upon all air travelers arriving into the country, they had already made this requirement for all incoming UK travelers late last month. 

America’s neighbour to the north, Canada, put into effect requirements for negative test results for all travelers entering the country earlier this month.  

plane flying over New York

Testing Requirements Could Open Borders

The new testing requirements being put in place may potentially lead to the opening of US borders to the EU, UK and Brazil. 

US airlines have been pleading for a global testing program to provide a safe alternative in which borders may remain safe and controlled while being open.  

At this time, there is no indication from the CDC as to whether the new testing requirements will lead to easing of entry restrictions for foreign nationals.

Q&A on US Testing

Since publishing this article we have created a guide from many of your questions regarding details on the new testing requirement for the USA. 
Please visit ” New U.S. Testing Requirements Guide: Everything Travelers Need To Know”

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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


Thursday 14th of January 2021

Can we talk about how this is a blatant violation of constitutional and human rights?


Thursday 14th of January 2021

I’m praying this means they’ll open borders to UK citizens who test negative as well. Missing my fiancée so ridiculously much, and I can’t take any more time off work to go to the UK and quarantine again. 😩🙏🏼


Thursday 14th of January 2021

Starting at what age will this new requirement be in effect? Also, is this a requirement for travellers transiting through the US to another country?

Kashlee Kucheran

Thursday 14th of January 2021

We have heard for passengers over 2 and yes for transits, but once the final decree is made, we will know 100%


Thursday 14th of January 2021

Hello! I was on the phone with someone from JetBlue tonight booking tickets into Mexico in March. She mentioned that Mexico will be requiring tests for entry around the same time the US will, do you know anything about that?


Friday 15th of January 2021

This is false information what that JetBlue person told you. I think he/she confused Mexico with another “Mexican country” :))

Kashlee Kucheran

Thursday 14th of January 2021

We haven't heard that yet


Wednesday 13th of January 2021

This should be unconstitutional. I’ve been traveling around south and central America the last few months and I can tell you right now getting a Covid test within 72 hours in these countries is completely unrealistic. Shame on the US government for not doing some kind of testing on arrival. Makes me sick to See our freedom infringed upon this way.