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Pre-Departure COVID Tests Required for Air Travelers Coming to the U.S.

Business Law Sarah Ames

Warning of travel restriction in airport

Starting January 26, 2021, all airline passengers, including U.S. citizens and green card holders, travelling to the United States from abroad are required to show a negative COVID-19 test that was taken less than 3 days before departure. Passengers who cannot show a negative test result will be denied boarding. Passengers that tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days preceding the flight, will need to present a specific written statement from a licensed health care provider or public health official stating that the specific passenger is cleared for travel. The test results or statements from a health care provider or health official will need to be presented to the airline and the airline must verify that every passenger presented the required documentation.

The negative COVID tests are required for all airline travel from abroad, including Canada and Mexico. It is not required when travelling from a state, territory or possession of the United States. There are exceptions for children under the age of 2 and for crew members, certain federal law enforcement officers and airline operators.

The COVID-19 test must be a viral test, meaning it must be a test detecting a current infection (i.e. a nucleic acid amplification test or a viral antigen test) approved or authorized by the relevant national authority for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. Test results must comply with the order issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and can be in paper or electronic format.

More information can be found on the website of the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-air-travel.html

At the present time, the current travel bans from the Schengen area, Great Britain, Ireland, Brazil, Iran and China continue to be in place for travelers that are not U.S. citizens, green card holders or otherwise exempt. In order to travel directly to the U.S. from the Schengen area or any of those countries requires a National Interest Exception or a stay of at least 14 uninterrupted days outside the Schengen area or any of those countries before entering the U.S. A negative COVID test does NOT exempt a traveler from the travel ban.

The U.S. does not have mandatory quarantine requirements. The CDC however recommends that travelers from countries or U.S. territories with a Level 2, 3 or 4 Travel Health Notice should:

  • Get tested 5 days after travel and stay home for 7 days after travel.
    • Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.
    • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days after travel.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
  • Always follow state and local recommendations or requirements related to travel.

Following is the link to the CDC guidance with regard to recommendations following international travel and entry into the U.S.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/after-travel-precautions.html

If you have any questions or need assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of our immigration attorneys or Sarah Ames, Partner at Quarles & Brady: