Client Alert: COVID-19 Testing Requirement for Air Passengers to Enter the United States

On January 12, 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Department of Health and Human Services issued an order requiring each passenger boarding a flight to the US (unless exempt – see below) on or after January 26, 2021, to provide evidence that the traveler has received a negative COVID-19 test conducted within seventy-two (72) hours prior to their planned travel.

What type of COVID-19 test must be conducted?

The COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or antigen test must be performed. An antibody COVID-19 test will not meet the requirements for entry.

When must the traveler’s COVID-19 test be conducted?

The COVID-19 test must be conducted within seventy-two (72) hours prior to boarding a flight to the US.

Does the COVID-19 testing requirement apply to those entering US via land or sea port-of-entry?

No, the COVID-19 testing requirement only applies to those entering the US via air.

What is acceptable evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test?

The traveler must present written or electronic proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within seventy-two (72) hours to the airline prior to boarding.

Will proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine replace this test requirement?

While this is likely to be true at some point later this year, receipt of the vaccine does not replace the COVID-19 testing requirement.

What happens a passenger’s flight is delayed causing the testing to go over the 3-day?

Unfortunately, the passenger would have to get retested.

Does this requirement supersede or cancel any prior travel bans?

No. With some exceptions, foreign nationals who have been in any of these countries during the fourteen (14) day period prior to seeking admission to the US may not enter the US.

Does this requirement only apply to commercial flights?

No, the testing requirement applies to all flights, including private flights and general aviation aircraft (charter flights).

Which travelers may be exempt from testing requirement?

  • Children under the age of two (2);
  • Certain crew members;
  • Certain law enforcement personnel; and
  • Airlines or aircraft operators granted testing waivers.

Stay tuned for the latest from the Moodys Immigration Team!