International air passengers to the U.S. must provide a negative COVID-19 test

BY Courtney H. New

On January 12, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Order requiring all airline passengers two (2) years of age and older arriving to the U.S. from a foreign country to either (1) produce a negative COVID-19 test result, taken within the three (3) calendar days preceding flight departure; or (2) if the traveler has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past three (3) months, provide "documentation of recovery" (discussed below). Any traveler who is unable to produce such documentation will not be permitted to board their flight to the U.S.

Are there any exceptions?

Travelers under the age of two (2) are exempt from this requirement but otherwise, all travelers to the U.S., including U.S. citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad must comply.

What kind of test is required?

The test must be a viral (NAAT or antigen) test.

What if the traveler has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last three (3) months?

If you have had a positive viral test in the past three (3) months and you have met the criteria to end isolation, you may travel with documentation of your positive test result and a letter from your health care provider or a public health official that states you have been cleared for travel ("documentation of recovery").

How will compliance be confirmed?

Test results or documentation of recovery must be submitted to the airline prior to boarding.

Does this order apply to all flights or just commercial flights?

This order applies to all flights, including private flights and general aviation aircraft (charter flights).

What if I have had a COVID-19 vaccine? Do I still need a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery?

Yes, all air passengers over the age of two (2) traveling to the U.S., regardless of vaccination status, are required to provide a negative test or documentation of recovery.

Does the CDC Order amend the various Presidential Proclamations restricting travel to the U.S.?

No. Per various Presidential Proclamations, foreign nationals who have been physically present in China, Iran, the European Schengen area, the U.K., Ireland, or Brazil during the 14-day period prior to attempted entry to the U.S., are prohibited from entering the U.S. (unless an exception applies) and a negative test result or documentation of recovery per the CDC Order does not eliminate these restrictions. Travelers who are expressly exempt from these Proclamations (e.g., U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents), as well as travelers who have been granted a National Interest Exception to a Proclamation, must still comply with the CDC Order.

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Courtney H. New


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