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United States: Negative COVID Test Now Required

The United States has joined many other countries in the world by requiring a negative COVID test for all arriving international passengers.

Starting on 26 January 2021, the USA will join many other countries globally by requiring a negative COVID test for all passengers arriving from international locations. This action taken by the CDC and reinforced by a Presidential Proclamation means that there are some additional measures that GA/BA operators will need to take when flying internationally. Among these requirements are the COVID tests and passenger attestations.

For all country updates, visit the COVID-19 resource page.


Passenger Requirements and the Test

Requirements for the Tests

The COVID test requirements implemented by the CDC in the USA allow for many different test types. The requirements for the tests themselves are:

  • Personal Identifiers on the test result must match the passenger's passport or other travel documents
  • The test must be collected within three calendar days of departure preceding the flight's departure. 
  • If flying on connecting flights, the test can be taken three days before the initial departure so long as all flights are on the same passenger record and each connection cannot exceed 24 hours.
  • The test must be viral
    • NAAT or Viral Antigen test
  • The test result must state
    • "NEGATIVE"
  • An invalid test is not allowed
  • The test result can be in paper or electronic form.
  • The test result must include sufficient verification information, such as the name and contact information for the lab or healthcare personnel who performed the test.

Notes on Exemptions

The majority of tests do fall under a NAAT or Viral Antigen test, including rapid viral antigen tests and many at-home tests shipped overnight to labs. Many popular locations in Mexico and the Caribbean have started to offer testing at the airports on departure from rapid antigen test results to continue facilitating international travel to the USA.

Alternatively, there is usually availability for COVID testing to promptly be done at most international locations, generally with results back in about 24 hours. It is a good idea to check with local labs that provide testing to make an appointment to ensure timely results.

There are some exemptions to the requirement for a negative test.

The first is if the passenger has tested positive for the virus in the last three months before departing back to the USA. In this case, they will need a copy of the positive test results taken within the previous 90 days before traveling back to the USA. They would also need a signed letter on official letterhead that contains the name, address, and phone number of a licensed healthcare provider or public health official stating that the passenger has been cleared for travel.

The testing requirements are the same for a negative test except that it would need to show a positive result.

Exemptions Include

Other exemptions include: 

  •  crew members
    • including deadhead crew members
  •  passengers under two years of age
  • passengers that are COVID-19 positive being transported with prior authorization from the CDC, Federal Law Enforcement and military 
  • when traveling for law enforcement or military duty, or if a specific waiver has been granted to an operator if a country is returned from does not have COVID testing capacity.

One other aspect to consider is the possibility of receiving a positive COVID test while abroad. In this case, and without authorization granted by the CDC, the passenger(s) must self-isolate in place and not return to the USA until they have received a letter stating that they are clear to travel.

Operator Requirements and the Attestation

Operators must review the passengers' tests before boarding and not board any passenger who does not have the valid test paperwork for a flight back to the USA. Additionally, operators must obtain an attestation from the passengers stating that they have a negative COVID 19 result within the last 3 days or recovered from a positive test taken within the last 90 days.

For any passengers aged 2-17, a parent or other authorized individual should provide their attestation. Operators must keep these attestations on file for 2 years. The CDC may require receiving a copy of these attestations on their request. Operators must not keep the test results on file; however, they must be viewed before the passengers embark.

Entry as Immigrants or Non-Immigrants for Non-Citizens of the USA

In a Presidential Proclamation signed on 25 January, non-citizens of the USA are not allowed entry into the USA if they have been present in the following countries/regions in the last 14 days preceding the date of arrival into the USA regardless of testing:

  • Schengen Countries
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Brazil
  • South Africa

This executive order works in the same way with existing executive orders for those physically present in China and Iran in the last 14 days preceding the date of arrival into the USA.

Exemptions are made for permanent residents of the USA, noncitizen national of the USA, noncitizen that is a spouse of, parent to an unmarried person under the age of 21, sibling to someone under the age of 21 (the non-citizen must also be under 21, child, foster, child, or ward a US citizen or permanent resident. Other exemptions are made for crew traveling on C1/D crew visas or traveling to the USA as part of air or sea crew under other visas and other diplomatic/government reasons.

The Day of Flight

Passengers must have their documents on them on the day of the flight, whether in paper or electronic format, in case a CDC official, other health officials, or other appointed government entity (could potentially be a CBP officer) requests to see said documentation.

Penalties for not having the documentation on them or not having it at all could include fines and/or jail time per US Code. An official may or may not ask to see the documentation. Operators are required to collect attestations before passenger embarkation.

Upon Return

Once back in the USA, the CDC has recommendations for passengers to follow:

  • Get tested 3-5 days after travel AND stay home for 7 days after travel.
  • Without a test, the CDC recommends staying at home for 10 days after travel.
  • Avoid being around people at an increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether tested or not.

It is also imperative to follow any state and local laws or orders at the destination of travel within the USA.

As the picture of international travel continues to evolve in the COVID era, it is always good to check for any updates before an international trip as requirements can and have changed quickly during the last year.

Contact World Fuel Trip Support

Asia-Pacific: +65 6215 6888

Canada: +1 403 717 4393

Europe, Middle East & Africa: +41 22 341 6210

South America: + 55 11 2924-2569

United States: +1 800 626 0577 | +1 281 280 2200

Contact Spire Flight Solutions
For Commercial, Government & Military

Tel: +1 303 566 3131  | +353 1 905 3501

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