As of January 26, 2021, all air passengers arriving to the U.S. from an international destination must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from the virus. In addition, President Biden has announced a new COVID-19 response plan, including the requirement for travelers to “comply with [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines for self-isolation and self-quarantine upon arrival.” While both announcements represent a major shift in international travel requirements—for visitors and citizens alike—the decisions align with a global trend towards requiring a negative COVID-19 test prior to international travel and quarantining after arrival.
Here’s a breakdown of the new Order issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the requirements other countries have implemented for inbound travelers, and what you need to know in order to comply.
Who does this Order apply to?
All air passengers two years of age and older arriving to the U.S. from an international destination must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery—i.e., a combination of a positive COVID-19 test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you have been cleared for travel—before boarding. This includes U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as well as those passengers transiting through the U.S., as well.
What kind of documentation do I need to provide?
The CDC requires that air passengers arriving in the U.S. have a paper or electronic copy of their test result or documentation of recovery for review by the airline before you board and for potential review by public health officials after you arrive in the U.S. Those passengers who do not comply will be denied boarding by the airline operating the flight to the U.S.
When do I need to get tested?
All travelers flying into the U.S. will need to present either a negative COVID-19 viral or antibody test that was performed within three days prior to boarding. Alternatively, you must present your documentation of recovery—that is, evidence of having contracted and recovered from COVID-19 within 90 days—before boarding.
Do I need to present a negative test result if I’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine?
All travelers will need to comply with the new Order, regardless of whether you have received the COVID-19 vaccine or not.
How long do I need to quarantine for after arriving in the U.S.?
The CDC currently encourages travelers to self-isolate for at least seven days after travel. At the time of publication, they recommend:
- Getting tested three to five days after travel and staying home for seven days after travel. This includes:
- Staying home for the full seven days, even if you test negative.
- If you test positive, isolating yourself to protect others from getting infected.
- If you don’t get tested, staying home for 10 days after travel.
- Avoiding being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
What else do I need to know about international inbound travel to the U.S.?
Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States. They are also required in all U.S. transportation hubs, including airports as well as rail and bus stations.
Have other countries instituted similar COVID-19 travel requirements?
Countries around the world are instituting similar COVID-19 travel requirements for inbound travelers, however, policies vary by country. Here’s a look at some of those policies (as of publication):
As of January 7, 2021, all air passengers five years of age or older are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result to the airline prior to boarding international flights bound for Canada. The test must be performed using one of two types of COVID-19 tests–either a molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) test–and must be conducted within 72 hours of your scheduled departure to Canada. Travelers will be required to present this information at the time of boarding. Those who fail to do so will be denied boarding by the airline operating the flight to Canada.
In addition, all travelers are required to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine, unless exempted under the Quarantine Act.
As of January 8, 2021, all foreign passengers seeking entry to South Korea must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR result (in English or Korean) obtained within 72 hours of departure. All travelers to South Korea are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon entry, as well.
Australia announced on January 8, 2021 that all incoming international passengers must return a negative COVID-19 test before boarding, with limited exceptions. This is in addition to an ongoing travel ban on all non-residents and non-Australian citizens entering the country.
In addition, travelers arriving in Australia by air or sea must go into mandatory quarantine for 14 days from arrival (with some exceptions). You must quarantine in the city you arrive in for 14 days, even if you plan to travel elsewhere in Australia.
As of January 15, 2021, all travelers (with limited exemptions) arriving by ship, plane, or train need to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours before departure to the U.K. Children age 11 and younger are exempt from the testing requirement. In addition, travelers must quarantine for 10 days upon entering the country.
Travelers to England, however, may reduce their 10-day quarantine period if they test negative for COVID-19 after five full days of self-isolation.
As of January 16, 2021, all passengers arriving into Ireland are required to present a negative result from a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in the country. Children aged six and under are exempt from this requirement.
All passengers who have arrived from the U.K., South Africa, or any countries in South America must self-isolate for 14 days following their arrival into Ireland. Passengers arriving from countries outside of the EU are also requested to self-isolate for 14 days. Those arriving from the EU are subject to the traffic lights approach and should follow those guidelines accordingly.
As of January 18, 2021, travelers entering France from outside the EU are required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test that was taken within 72 hours prior to departure. Travelers are also required to self-isolate for seven days upon arrival and re-test seven days after arrival, as well.
How can I keep track of COVID-19 travel requirements and guidelines?
TripIt now shows you the latest COVID-19 travel guidelines, restrictions, and requirements—alongside infection rates—for more than 200 countries and territories. Once you’ve booked a trip, you’ll be able to easily see the latest information on COVID-19 for the destinations you’re visiting. This will include testing requirements, current infection rates, quarantine rules upon arrival, and other information travelers need to know before visiting the area.