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Entering the US Will Require Covid-19 Test Before Travel – Here is What You Should Know

Written by Charlie

Starting very soon, the US will require a negative covid-19 test result before you enter. Here are some answers to many of the questions about this new policy.

The US announced this week that they are doing as many other countries have in requiring a negative Covid-19 test before arrival. This will not go into effect for a few more days but there are many questions around it so here are some answers to those questions.

You Will Need a Negative Covid-19 Test For Entry to the US

Link: CDC Info About Negative Testing

Like so many other countries, the US will not make an exclusion for US citizens. This means everyone that wants to enter the US on or after January 26, 2021 will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test before coming to the US.

It is important to note that this will not allow those who have not been allowed to enter the US to finally enter. However, this new testing requirement may soon usher in a lift to the travel ban on people from the European Union.

Who Does This New Requirement Apply To?

It will apply to everyone who is entering the US, ages 2 years old and above.

What is Required for Entry to the US?

In addition to a passport and any visa/permit requirements that have always existed, you will now need to show a negative Covid-19 test. The test itself needs to be a viral test that is either NAAT or antigen. The antigen tests are quite easy to get results on quickly and throughout Europe (if you are traveling from there), there are numerous options to get the more reliable PCR tests in quick turnaround time.

How Old Should the Covid-19 Test Be?

The results should show that the test was taken not more than 72 hours before departure to the US. Here is more information on this, according to the CDC:

If you are arriving on a direct flight to the US, your test must be done within the 3 days before your flight to the US departs. If you are arriving to the US via one or more connecting flights, your test must be done in the 3 days before the first flight in your itinerary, but only if the connecting flights were booked as a single passenger record with a final destination in the US and each connection (layover) is no longer than 24 hours long. If your connecting flight to the US was booked separately or a connection in your itinerary lasts longer than 24 hours, you will need to get tested within the 3 days before your flight that arrives in the US.

What happens if my flight is delayed and it goes over the 3-day limit for testing?

If your flight is delayed before departure, you will need to get re-tested if the delay causes your test to fall outside of the 3-day pre-departure testing period requirement.

What About Vaccines or Previous Infections?

At present, the US will not accept any type of vaccination certification as a means to avoid the testing. However, if you have tested positive in the previous 3 months and have a letter from a doctor attesting to your safety to travel, you can skip the test. This is known as your “document of recovery.”

Where Can You Get Tested?

Visit this State Department website to find some suggestions on where you can be tested. If you are traveling from Europe, Frankfurt, Munich, and Vienna airports (among others) offer quick tests that can be taken during layovers. Many airports in Europe do have testing facilities on site.

But, keep in mind that your airline that is transporting you to the US (or that is the first leg on a complete itinerary that includes travel to the US) is required to verify that you have a negative test before letting you check-in and board. So, if you are flying on one reservation to, say, Frankfurt, you could get tested there and then check-in for the reservation that will take you to the US.

Also remember that many countries still have rules in place as to who is allowed to enter the country so make sure you are allowed to enter, say, Germany, before you plan to get tested there (when using a ticket that terminates in Frankfurt and then a new one that continues to the US).

It is actually not that difficult to get a test result for this scenario since Europe has rapid PCR tests and many, many antigen options all around. Since the requirement is 72 hours before departure, this means you are not stuck with dealing with the trip time as part of the equation.

What If You Already Have a Flight Booked and Cannot Get a Test in Time?

Check with your airline as some airlines are offering free changes to accommodate those who will be most effected in the early days of this new policy. At the least, many airlines have now waived change fees so you could change to another date without paying that big fee (but you may be required to pay the fare difference).

Bottom Line

The US will require a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to 72 hours before you depart for the US. This will go into effect January 26, 2021 and will apply to all travelers (with the exception of those that can prove a positive test in the previous 3 months and a doctor’s letter clearing them to fly as well as flight crews).

This post should help you answer some of the many questions that have been going around.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

4 Comments

  • Haven’t been able to confirm that Puerto Rico and St Thomas (us Virgin Islands) are exempt. I presume so, but would like to receive confirmation. Any ideas?

  • Hi, Charlie! Similar question to Larry D’s: In February, I have an immediate (less than 2 hour) turnaround at SJU, flying from and returning to CLT on the same airplane (starting the status requalification merry-go-round). Do I need a COVID test to fly to PR as a U.S. territory and, more important given the requirement going into effect 1/26 requiring a negative COVID test to enter the U.S. from international locations, do I need this test if I am only transiting (never leaving the post-security, “sterile”) zone at SJU? Thanks, in advance, if you know or can find a definitive answer to this question!

    • Hi, Jim – Puerto Rico does require a test for incoming passengers but you will not need a test to return to the mainland, under this CDC rule. The CDC rule says that all US territories are exempt from it. Check the link at the top of the page to see that in writing from the CDC!
      Have a good trip! I did one of those quick turns years ago, loved the sunshine outside the terminal for an hour during winter! 🙂

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