Starting December 6, all inbound international airline passengers ages 2 and older, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, will be required to submit a negative COVID test taken within one day of travel to the United States, in order to board their flight. Passengers on flights departing at or after 12:01 am EST on December 6, 2021 will be subject to the new policy. Passengers who have recovered from COVID within 90 days will still be able to submit evidence of their recovery as an alternative to COVID testing.
The Biden Administration has tightened its existing COVID testing policy, which permitted fully vaccinated passengers to submit a test taken within three days of travel, in response to the new Omicron COVID variant of COVID-19.
A closer look
The new air travel policy requires that a COVID test be taken within one calendar day of departure to the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) purposely did not use a 24-hour requirement so that the timing of the COVID test taken the prior day will not invalidate it for travel.
A humanitarian exemption exists for the testing requirement, but will only be granted in extremely limited cases where travel is necessary for emergencies involving health and safety and the passenger is unable to access or complete COVID testing in time for their flight.
This change in testing protocol follows a new presidential proclamation that took effect on November 29, also in response to Omicron, that prohibits the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry of foreign nationals who have been physically present in certain Southern African countries. COVID vaccination policies that took effect for international travelers on November 8 remain unchanged.
International travelers should continue to expect changes in public health and travel requirements as the COVID pandemic continues.