Don’t forget to check travel requirements for your international flight — many countries still have entry hurdles

Jul 1, 2022

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While the United States recently scrapped its pre-entry COVID-19 testing mandate, some countries around the world continue to require COVID-19 testing, proof of COVID vaccination and specific documentation for entry.

The airline check-in process may require evidence and input of this documentation before you can proceed with your trip. In addition, some countries will require additional documentation at border control, and at least in the case of Japan, a new specialized type of tourist visa.

In this summer of hectic travel and flight disruptions, be sure to take a little time and do the research well ahead of your journey to determine any potential entry requirements. You won’t want any last-minute surprises before what may already be a stressful trip.

TPG took a look at a few popular countries with continued entry requirements, as well as some that recently dropped their mandates. Requirements can change on a daily basis, so check again with your airline, hotel, tour group, or country tourism website for the latest information well before your departure date — and again as your trip approaches.

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Entry requirements can vary

The ArriveCAN electronic entry registration page. (Screenshot from canada.ca)

Many countries have scrapped their pre-entry requirements, no longer mandating COVID-19 testing or even asking for proof of vaccination. Destinations that have eased entry requirements over the past couple of months include Italy and Cyprus, Greece, Switzerland, and Bermuda.

Most European countries, including England, France and Germany do not require any testing or vaccination documentation prior to entry.

Related: Country-by-country guide to coronavirus reopenings

However, a number of destinations, even those not requiring testing, have implemented mandatory pre-arrival digital registration systems. This includes Australia’s Digital Passenger Declaration, Canada’s ArriveCAN, and South Korea’s Q-Code. These registrations can typically be completed up to two to seven days before your departure.

For most of these registration programs, you’ll need a number of documents on hand. Don’t wait until you’re at the airport to begin securing them, or you may be out of luck.

Airlines should remind you of the registration requirement prior to checking in (or when booking a flight). However, as regulations change quickly, it’s important to double-check with the destination prior to your departure.

My experience with a registration process

As one example, I recently traveled to Canada, pre-registering using the ArriveCan program — but only learning about the program as I reviewed my flight details.

The process took me just about 10 minutes once I gathered the required documents. I needed to create a user name and ID in the program (with email verification), then input my passport data, flight and travel information, as well as my vaccination status.

The program asked for verification that I had received two doses of vaccine, but nothing related to a booster shot. Once completed, the ArriveCan system generated a QR code for a physical printout or digital display to be used upon entry. Upon my arrival at Montreal’s YUL airport, I was not asked to present the QR code (possibly because it was attached to my passport information). However, travelers should have the QR code ready for presentation just in case.

As a bonus, the ArriveCan program allows passengers to pre-register for customs declaration, eliminating the need for additional forms or questions at the airport. I did have a slight delay when I couldn’t quickly answer a border official’s question about where I was staying in Canada. He eventually passed me through, though, when he grew tired of me searching on my phone and in my documents for the information.

Document requirements

Beyond countries like Canada that have streamlined digital systems, some destinations still require an additional back-and-forth document exchange for entry. For example, TPG editor Senitra Horbrook’s planned July trip to the Caribbean island of St. Kitts requires her to submit pre-arrival COVID negative test results, a vaccine certificate, as well as an online customs, immigration and health declaration forms.

After submission, she’ll wait for approval from the Ministry of National Security.

Japan is one continuing outlier in the travel process. It recently reopened for tourism — but with tight restrictions and requirements. Japan continues to require a pre-arrival negative COVID-19 test along with vaccination documentation. It also currently requires a visa for entry, with tourists allowed only as part of an accredited tour group.

In addition, visitors must sign a code-of-conduct form attesting to their obedience to health regulations. Japan’s regulations continue to change on a monthly basis, so potential travelers there should check in regularly with the Japan National Tourism website for information.

Related: Japan reopens for tourists — but only in tour groups

Bottom line

Most countries worldwide have relaxed or completely eliminated COVID-related entry requirements. However, a significant number of destinations still require some form of vaccine or health documentation before arrival. Travelers should be aware that restrictions may still be in place for their end destination.

Be sure to check with your airline, tour operator or your destination’s health website about a week before your planned date of departure to validate what requirements may be in place. You may need to arrange a COVID test, register for a digital entry program or make copies of your vaccination certificates, none of which you’ll want to be doing at the last minute at the airport before an international trip.

Featured photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy.

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