The US implemented stricter testing requirement for air travelers: Here are 5 things you need to know

Dec 6, 2021

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While the White House did not impose the most draconian measures being considered just last week, the White House did decide all incoming air travelers to the U.S. are now required to submit a negative COVID-19 test within one day of departure back to the U.S., marking the strictest domestic COVID-19 protocols thus far (aside from outright bans).

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Here are answers to some of the most important questions being asked right now about the new rules for international travel.

In This Post

1. What is the new testing rule?

As of this week, all inbound travelers to the U.S. over age 2, regardless of vaccination status, are required to show results of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of departure, thereby shortening previous entry requirements that allowed vaccinated travelers to take a test within three days of visiting the U.S.

This testing requirement applies to all travelers 2 and older seeking entry to the country, including Americans.

2. What test is valid for travel into the US?

All passengers coming to the U.S. from a foreign country are expected to show results of a negative viral COVID-19 test beginning Dec. 6 — either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Travelers are responsible for submitting negative test results to their airline before boarding their flight and/or during the check-in process. Several airlines, including American Airlines and British Airways, are using apps such as VeriFly to allow travelers to upload digital test results. There are also digital vaccine passports, including one from Clear, that enable you to upload negative test results and vaccine records for travel.

At-home tests are currently accepted for travel to the U.S., including CDC-approved at-home tests, such as Abbott’s BinaxNow COVID-19 Home Test, Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test and Qured, which allow you to test from the comfort of your own home. Just note that Abbott also has a test that is not approved for travel, so verify you are using the correct one before testing.

Related: US will reportedly require all travelers to get a COVID-19 test 1 day before travel

3. Are there any exemptions?

The CDC notes that only those who have previously recovered from COVID-19 within the 90-day period prior to travel can enter the country without a test by submitting results of a positive COVID-19 test in addition to documentation from a licensed health care provider or a public health official clearing you to travel.

4. Does within ‘1 day’ of departure mean 24 hours?

The one-day testing window means travelers can test anytime within the day prior to their departing flight to the U.S.

“For example, if your flight is at 1pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday,” says the CDC.

Related: How to determine your testing window for returning to the US

The test must also be approved for use in the country in which it is administered. CDC guidelines for self-tests or at-home tests can be found here.

5. Does this new rule affect travelers entering the US by land or sea?

For now, this new order only applies to passengers entering the U.S. by air travel. Currently, no test is required to enter the U.S. by car from Canada or Mexico, nor does the new testing requirement apply to those boarding or disembarking cruise ships at U.S. ports.

Related: Do the new COVID-19 testing rules apply to cruisers?

Bottom line

A rule requiring a COVID-19 test taken within one day of departure for the U.S. is likely to remain in place as new variants of the coronavirus continue to spread.

To ensure you are able to secure test results within one day of departing for the U.S., plan ahead and explore all your testing options, including the many hotels and airports that provide rapid testing capabilities, in addition to the aforementioned at-home tests.

Entry requirements have frequently changed without warning, so be sure to consult the CDC’s website for the most updated COVID-19 travel guidance.

Related: Pre-travel testing to the US is about to get harder than ever

Additional reporting by Liz Ramanand.

Featured photo courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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