COVID-19 Testing Required for U.S. Entry

Effective January 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will require all air passengers two years of age and over entering the United States (including U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents) to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three (3) calendar days of departure​, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. Airlines must confirm the negative test result or proof of recent recovery for all passengers prior to boarding. ​Airlines must deny boarding of passengers who do not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery.

See the CDC Proof of Negative Test Result page to view the order, complete the attestation, and to see FAQ’s.    

Humanitarian exemptions to this order will be granted on an extremely limited basis and will only be considered when the country of departure lacks adequate SARS-CoV-2 testing capacity and cannot meet the requirements to provide a negative viral COVID-19 test within three (3) calendar days of departure. There are no waivers available through this process for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.  Individuals - or air carriers seeking to allow boarding by potentially qualifying individuals - who believe they meet the criteria for a waiver should contact the embassy or consulate serving the location from which they plan to depart and provide the information below. The embassy or consulate will then submit the request to the CDC for consideration.  

To be eligible for consideration for a humanitarian exemption to this order, an individual’s situation must meet both of the below criteria: 

  • Emergency travel is required to preserve health and safety (e.g. medical evacuations). 
  • Predeparture testing cannot be accessed or completed before travel.  

The following information must be provided for each passenger:

a. Name (family name/surname, given name), passport number and  nationality 

b. Cell phone number including country code of passenger or head of household if family unit

c. Email address of passenger or head of household if family unit

d. U.S. destination address                                                           

i.Is U.S. destination home address?             

e. Departure date 

f.  Flight itinerary, including any connecting flights  

g.  Name of submitting entity if different from passenger

h.  Name of company submitting on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)     

i.   Name of point of contact submitting on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)                             

j.   Phone and email address for POC submitting waiver request on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)

k.  Purpose of travel to the U.S. (provide brief explanation of why urgent travel is needed and how travel will contribute to health and safety of passengers(s))

l.  Justification for testing waiver (e.g. no testing available, impact on health and safety)

m. Documentation to support justification for test waiver, if available (e.g. medical records or orders for medical evacuation).

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COVID Testing Requirement: FAQs

Q: Where can I get tested? 

A: See our U.S. Embassy pages on how and where to get tested in the country from which you are traveling.  

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Q: How many days must the negative COVID-19 viral test be taken prior to attempting to enter the United States? Is it 3 calendar days from departure or arrival in the United States? 

A: If you are arriving on a direct flight to the United States, your test must be done within the 3 calendar days before your flight to the United States departs. If you are arriving to the United States 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 booking with a final destination in the United States and any layovers no longer than 24 hours. If your connecting flight to the US was booked separately or a layover in your itinerary lasts longer than 24 hours or your travel is disrupted and you leave the airport, you will need to get tested within the 3 days before your flight that arrives in the US.  

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Q: Is there a specific type of COVID-19 test that must be taken? 

A: You will need a viral test (NAAT or antigen test) to determine if you are currently infected with COVID-19.  

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Q: Do test results need to be in English? Will the airline require a hard copy of the test results? 

A: Please check with your airline to determine in what language results can be submitted. CDC requires air passengers to have a paper or electronic copy of their test result for review by the airline before you board and for potential review by public health officials after you arrive in the United States. Passengers will also attest to the authenticity of the test presented.    

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Q: Will U.S. visa applicants need to present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test in order to be approved for a visa? 

A: We have no changes to visa requirements to announce at this time. However, this order does apply to nonimmigrant and immigrant visa holders.  

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Q: What happens if my flight is delayed on my way to the United States and the 3 day time frame expires? Will I need to retest? 

A: 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. A delay while traveling on a continuous itinerary will not invalidate an otherwise valid test unless it results in you leaving the airport terminal or a layover lasting longer than 24 hours.  

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Q: Does the order apply to travelers who are only transiting the United States? 

A: Yes. Any passenger on a flight entering the US, even for a connection, will require testing before departure.  

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Q: What if I am in a country where COVID-19 testing is not available? Can I get a test at the U.S. Embassy? Can I test upon arrival in the United States? 

A: The United States government does not plan to provide COVID-19 vaccinations or testing services to private U.S. citizens abroad. For more information regarding inbound travel testing requirements, we refer you to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  
For more information on where to obtain a test overseas, travelers should review the relevant Embassy website. You may need to consider a routing change to a different country or city in order to meet the testing requirement.  

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Q: I cannot afford COVID-19 testing. Can the U.S. Embassy/Consulate help me pay for testing?  

A: U.S. citizens are required to pay for their own tests. In general, if a U.S. citizen abroad faces destitution, the Department can offer certain limited types of assistance if eligibility requirements are met; you may find more information about what we can do on our website.

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Q: I cannot afford COVID-19 testing, nor can I afford to continue to stay overseas. Who will help keep me from being homeless in a foreign country? 

A: In general, if a U.S. citizen abroad faces destitution, the Department can offer certain limited types of assistance if eligibility requirements are met; you may find more information about what we can do on our website.

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Q: Since the U.S. government is requiring this test of its own citizens, shouldn’t the United States be required to provide this test to US citizens overseas?  

A: The Department of State does not provide direct medical care to private U.S. citizens abroad. We are committed to providing all possible consular assistance to U.S. citizens in need overseas, including by providing information on local medical resources when appropriate. 

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Q: I recently had a negative COVID-19 test and have been in quarantine ever since. Is this enough to allow me to travel to the U.S.? 

A: If the negative viral test result is outside of the 3 day window, you will need to test again. 

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Q: I am traveling with an infant. Does the baby also need a negative COVID test? 

A: All air passengers age 2 and older need to provide negative test results. Children under the age of 2 do not need to provide negative test results. 

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Q: How can you ban U.S. citizens from returning home? Isn’t this order illegal? 

A: The CDC order does not ban U.S. citizens from entering the US. The order relates to boarding a U.S.-bound aircraft and is meant to protect and preserve human life, as well as prevent further transmission of a highly contagious and often deadly virus. 

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Q: The resort I am traveling to has testing on site.  I won’t have a problem, right? 

A: It depends. While some resorts are planning to offer testing, there is no guarantee you will test negative. The CDC estimates that 40% of all COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic. If you test positive you should be prepared to extend your trip for a few weeks at your own expense.  

A:  Some resorts and int’l airports are working to provide testing but there’s no guarantee there will be enough tests, or that  results will be ready in 3 days, especially at popular locations. Verify your destination offers testing, and have a back-up plan

A: If your resort does offer COVID testing, remember not all types of tests will be accepted. Only a viral test (either molecular NAAT or antigen) is acceptable for boarding on U.S.-bound flights.   

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Q:  This is just another U.S. Government overreaction.  Why are you trying to stop people from traveling? 

A: We encourage U.S. citizens to avoid non-essential travel. If you must travel abroad we want you to have all the information you need to do so safely. Have health and financial contingency plans should you test positive, and do your part to help slow the spread of the virus.  

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Q: What’s the point of testing 3 days before my return to the United States?  I can get infected after I test negative or on the plane. 

A: The 3-day time-frame is meant to provide a reasonable turnaround time for test results. While you could be infected after your test, the CDC order is meant to reduce the risk of further introduction, transmission, and spread of the virus (including new variants) into the US. 

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Q: Now that testing is required to board a U.S.-bound flight, will country specific travel bans be removed? 

A: The CDC order does not replace Presidential Proclamations that suspend/limit entry into the US of aliens who were physically present within specific countries during the 14-day period before attempted entry. We will provide updates on these policies if/when they are available.  

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Q: Can I apply for a humanitarian exemption?

A: CDC may grant a humanitarian exemption in limited circumstances only when an individual must travel to the United States to preserve health and safety (e.g. emergency medical evacuations), and finds it impossible to access or complete the testing requirement before travel. Individuals and organizations who think they may qualify for this exemption under CDC’s Order should contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country from which they are departing for the United States who will then transmit your information to the CDC for consideration of the waiver request. There are no exemptions available through this process for individuals who test positive for COVID-19. 

You can contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, or call these numbers at the U.S. Department of State headquarters: From the United States and Canada: 888-407-4747; from overseas: 202-501-4444

To facilitate the review of your humanitarian exemption request, the following information should be provided to the embassy or consulate for transmission to the CDC:

  • For each passenger: Name (family name/surname, given name), Passport number and Nationality
  • Cell phone, including country code, of passenger or head of household if family unit                      
  • Email of passenger or head of household if family unit
  • U.S. destination address
    • Is U.S. destination home address?          
  • Departure date and flight itinerary, including any connecting flights
    • Name of submitting entity if different from passenger
    • Name of company submitting on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)    
    • Name of point of contact (POC) submitting on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)                                          
    • Phone and email address for POC submitting exemption request on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)
  • Purpose of travel to the United States (provide brief explanation of why urgent travel is needed, and how travel will contribute to health and safety of passengers(s))
  • Justification for testing exemption (e.g. no testing available,  impact on health and safety)
  • Documentation to support justification for test exemption (e.g. medical records or orders for medical evacuation)

See the Department of State’s website for more information on assistance for U.S. citizens overseas.

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Q: Are US territories considered foreign countries for the purposes of this Order?

A: No, the Order does not apply to air passengers flying from a U.S. territory to a U.S. state. U.S. territories include American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

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Q: Does this Order apply to land border crossings?

A: No, the requirements of this Order only apply to air travel into the US.

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Q: Can I get a rapid test?

A: Rapid tests are acceptable as long as they are a viral test acceptable under the Order.

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Q: Does an at home test qualify?

A: The Order requires a lab report to be presented to the airline/public health officials upon request. A home specimen collection kit that is tested in a laboratory should meet the requirements, if such methods have been authorized by the country’s national health authorities.

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Q: Do the requirements of this Order apply to diplomats and special visa holders?

A: Diplomats and special visa holders are not exempt from this Order.

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What if I have had a COVID-19 vaccine or have tested positive for antibodies? Do I still need a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19?

A: Yes, at this time all air passengers traveling to the US, regardless of vaccination or antibody status, are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery.

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Q: Do state and local governments in the US have separate testing requirements for air passengers?

A: Federal testing requirements must be met to board a U.S.-bound flight. State and local governments may have additional testing requirements for air passengers arriving in their jurisdictions. Check local recommendations/requirements.

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Q: Can a test taken before departure from the US be used to return within the 3-day timeframe? How will testing requirements be handled for short trips?

A: If a trip is shorter than 3 days, a viral test taken in the United States can be used to fulfill the requirements of the Order as long as the specimen was taken no more than 3 days before the return flight to the US departs

Last Updated: February 12, 2021

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