As the U.S. races to rapidly increase vaccination rates under President Joe Biden, the country is taking additional precautions to manage COVID-19, including new restrictions on international travel ordered by the CDC. Starting tomorrow, January 26th, anyone entering the U.S. by air from another country will have to provide a recent negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from the virus to their airline in order to be allowed to board their flight. Here’s what you need to know.
What Documentation Will Be Required?
All passengers over two years old—both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals—will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before their flight or proof of recovery from COVID-19. Proof of recovery will require a positive test result within three months of the flight and an official letter from a healthcare provider that the passenger is fully recovered and cleared for travel.
To be accepted, your COVID-19 test result must be from a viral test, meaning rapid antigen tests and PCR tests (swab tests) will both be allowed, but antibody tests (blood tests), will not.
In addition to the test results, each passenger will be required to print out and sign a form called an attestation which confirms that the test results or documentation are true. Parents and guardians can sign them on behalf of minors, but every passenger must have both test results and an attestation.
Airlines will check each passenger’s test results and attestation prior to boarding and people without proper documentation won’t be allowed to board.
Where Can Passengers Obtain A Test?
Testing availability varies widely across the U.S. and it may be difficult to get a testing appointment within 3 days of your flight and still have results in time. However, cities and states are working to scale up faster and more efficient test infrastructure, including rapid tests that take only a few minutes. You can find some ideas of where to get tested here.
Does this Order Apply to People Traveling by Land?
The order doesn’t apply to land borders. Only passengers entering the country by air will be required to show their test results. However, it’s always a good idea to get tested before you travel.
Does This Order Mean Anyone Can Enter the U.S. With the Right Documentation?
This order doesn’t supersede existing travel bans during the public health crisis. Currently, foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen Area in Europe, the UK, Ireland, Iran, China or Brazil within the last 14 days are not allowed to enter the United States. To enter the U.S. from one of those countries, you would have to go somewhere else for 14 days and then get tested. The bans don’t apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Does This Order Apply to U.S. Territories?
U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and Guam are considered part of the country for the purposes of the order, so passengers won’t be required to show proof of negative test results to enter the mainland U.S. from a territory.
What Should You Do Once You Reach the U.S.?
After you enter the U.S. from another country, the CDC recommends that you get tested between 3 and 5 days after returning and stay home for a week, whether your results are positive or negative. If you can’t get tested, stay home for 10 days. Make sure you aren’t near people who are higher risk when you return home from traveling.
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