Yesterday, the United States announced it would require negative coronavirus tests for all inbound US travelers coming from abroad, even US citizens. Today, the US Centers for Disease Control has published a number of exceptions to the new testing requirement.
Exceptions To New Testing Requirement For All Inbound International Travelers To USA
All inbound passengers to the United States, including US citizens, must present a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding their flight to the USA. This can be in the from of a nucleic acid amplification (PCR) or antigen test. The test must be taken no more three calendar days prior to the start of your journey. If you are connecting, the test only must be within three days of your first flight, provided your connection(s) are under 24 hours.
However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a number of exceptions.
First, children under two are exempt (meaning all those two and older must present testing).
The CDC also published four category exceptions to its new universal order, which I am quoting verbatim below:
- Crew members of airlines or other aircraft operators provided that they follow industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19 as set forth in relevant Safety Alerts
- Airlines or other aircraft operators transporting passengers with COVID-19 pursuant to CDC authorization and in accordance with CDC guidance.
- Federal law enforcement personnel while on official duty and carrying out a law enforcement function and members of the U.S. military (including aircraft operators), when traveling under competent orders—provided that the authority ordering the travel requires precautions to prevent the possible transmission of infection to others during the travel period in accordance with CDC guidance.
- Airlines or other aircraft operators granted specific waivers from the application of this Order based on CDC’s determination that a foreign country lacks available SARS-CoV-2 testing capacity. Such waivers may be granted based on a specific request made by an airline or aircraft operator to the CDC and will be limited to 14 days unless renewed by CDC.
The exemption for airline crews, law enforcement, and military personnel was expected. But the final exception may prove interesting. It is undeniable that there is not the infrastructure in place in every nation to accommodate rapid COVID-19 testing. By opening the door to exceptions based upon a country’s testing capacity, CDC diminishes the risk that Americans will be stranded abroad. No exception nations have been announced yet.
There is no exemption to this travel restriction for US citizens or permanent residents nor foreign nationals who agree to a quarantine requirement.
Extra Exception: Proof Of Positive Test + Recovery
An additional exception is granted if you have tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered. In order to travel under this exception, you must bring proof of a positive test result as well as a signed letter from a licensed healthcare provider (on official letterhead) stating that you have been cleared to travel. The letter must include:
- Telephone number
Furthermore, the positive test must have occurred within the last 90 days. As our understanding of COVID-19 develops, the CDC may modify that timeframe.
There is no exception for those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinations are a helpful tool, but not failsafe. The testing requirement begins January 26, 2021. Children under two are exempt, those who tested positive and recovered are exempt, and we may see further certain country waivers based upon testing capacity.
Some will applaud that even in the USA, international travel testing exceptions are rare.