Traveling Internationally? You’ll Need a Negative Covid Test to Return to The US

Negative Covid Test Required

As we near one year since the Covid-19 pandemic escalated in the US and Europe, daily new case rates remain high but there is hope that the pandemic will finally be put to bed as more and more people are getting vaccinated every day.

However, although the vaccine rollout is certainly encouraging, it will take at least half a year to vaccinate enough people to begin to make it difficult for the virus to spread within the population.

So, it’s not surprising that the US government – and indeed pretty much every single other government – is looking at other ways to curb the spread of coronavirus in the meantime, such as requiring travelers to provide proof of negative COVID test.

Negative Covid Test Now Required To Enter the US

From Tuesday, February 2, anyone entering the United States will need to provide proof of a negative Covid test. This rule will apply to visitors trying to enter the US and American nationals trying to return home, irrespective of their reasons for traveling abroad in the first place.

The Covid test must be a PCR swab test (other tests, such as antibody tests, won’t be accepted) conducted up to 72 hours before your flight.

This new restriction was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) almost a month in advance on January 12, but it wasn’t formalized by President Joe Biden via an executive order until last week.

Previously, only passengers flying into the US from the UK were required to provide proof of a negative Covid test. This requirement was announced by the CDC in late December following the discovery of a new, more contagious strain of the Covid-19 virus which originated in the south-east of England and has since spread to the rest of the UK in addition to dozens of other countries.

Is Anyone Exempt From This Requirement?

People who have been vaccinated against coronavirus will not be exempt from needing to provide proof of a negative Covid test when entering the US.

However, if you have tested positive for coronavirus in the last 90 days and have made a full recovery, you can be exempt from this requirement so long as you provide proof of both.

Can I Get Tested in the Airport?

At this time, it isn’t possible to get tested at the airport (either when departing from your travel destination or upon arriving in the US.) So, you must take a Covid test up to 72 hours in advance and make sure you test negative before trying to board your flight home.

What Other Measures Are in Place?

The US is no longer under lockdown, but there are still various social distancing measures in place to limit the spread of the virus.

These measures are set at the State level so they vary across the US, but they include things like wearing a face mask or another type of face covering in public areas, limits on restaurant and hotel capacities, and the strategic deployment of hand sanitizer stations in public spaces.

A Quick Summary

  • Anyone entering the United States from February 2 onwards will need to provide proof of a negative Covid test.
  • The test must be a PCR swab test and it must be conducted up to 72 hours before your flight for it to be valid.
  • Previously, only people arriving in the US from the UK had to provide proof of a negative Covid test.
  • People who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are not exempt from this requirement, and it’s not possible to pay to have a test at the airport.
  • It’s unclear how long this requirement will remain in place, but we should see some coronavirus social distancing measures being relaxed later this year assuming the US’ vaccination rollout goes to plan.