New Requirements for Air Travelers to the U.S.

COVID-19 Travel
December 30, 2021

New Requirements for Air Travelers to the U.S.

Updated Pre-departure Testing Requirements for Air Travelers to the U.S.

Starting on December 6, air travelers aged two and older, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, are required to show documentation of a negative viral test result taken within one day of the flight’s departure to the United States before boarding. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight. That includes all travelers – U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and foreign nationals.

If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e., your positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country, and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).

Exemptions will be considered on an extremely limited basis. Please visit the CDC for more information about exemptions and the requirement for proof of negative COVID-19 test or recovery from COVID-19, including types of accepted tests for all air passengers arriving in the United States.

Please see the CDC website for further information on the Omicron Variant.

CDC Order

The CDC recommends that you do not travel internationally until you are fully vaccinated. International travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some COVID-19 variants. Delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. If you do travel, follow all CDC recommendations before, during, and after travel.

U.S. citizens who choose to travel internationally should be aware that they may face unexpected challenges related to COVID-19 as they attempt return to the United States or attempt to travel from one overseas destination to another.  If you choose to travel internationally, be sure to make contingency plans, as you may find yourself having to remain in a foreign country longer than originally planned. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Order, which took effect November 8, 2021, requiring all  non-immigrant, non-citizen air travelers to the United States to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to the United States remains in effect. Travelers should monitor the CDC website on international travel for the latest guidance regarding testing requirements.

Exceptions to the CDC Order requiring all air passengers to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to the United States are extremely limited to the following groups:

  • children under 18
  • people medically unable to receive the vaccine
  • emergency travelers who do not have timely access to a vaccine

Humanitarian exemptions to the CDC order are granted on an extremely limited basis.

For additional information, please visit our FAQs for answers to questions about the requirement for proof of negative COVID-19 test or recovery from COVID-19 for all air passengers arriving in the United States.

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Country Specific COVID-19 Updates

Global COVID-19 conditions are dynamic.  U.S. citizens who choose to travel internationally should be aware that they may face unexpected challenges related to COVID-19 as they attempt return to the United States or attempt to travel from one overseas destination to another.  If you choose to travel internationally, be sure to make contingency plans, as you may find yourself having to remain in a foreign country longer than originally planned. 

The Department of State recommends you have access to financial resources and any medication you require to cover an unanticipated overseas stay of a week or more.  Travelers should also consider making arrangements for longer than expected absences from their homes, places of work, and schools before departing.  The Department recommends all travelers consider travel insurance with Covid-related trip cancellation and medical benefits. In general, Medicare and Medicaid do not cover medical costs overseas.  Please also see https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/your-health-abroad.html.

Foreign country COVID measures: In addition to requirements for boarding flights to the U.S., some countries have imposed other travel requirements.  These may include quarantine on arrival, mandatory COVID-19 testing requirements, travel restrictions, and closed borders. Some countries have also imposed travel restrictions requiring can include mandatory quarantine for those testing positive on departure, which could delay your ability to travel to another country on your itinerary.   Foreign governments in any country may implement restrictions with little notice.  

Airline COVID Measures: If you are planning to travel overseas or if you are currently overseas and planning to return to the United States, you should contact your airline for specific information about testing requirements for travelers. Because airlines may adopt and modify their own specific policies to implement the CDC’s testing rule, you should contact the carrier for your U.S.-bound flight and not rely on information from other carriers or information or experience from previous trips 

The Department of State provides country-specific information and advice regarding COVID-19 online.  We update these resources whenever we receive new information, so please review these resources frequently: 

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Information for Vaccinated Travelers Going Overseas

Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine. You still may be able to spread COVID-19 even if you are fully vaccinated.  

Travelers should consult with their personal physician if they have specific questions or concerns regarding their individual medical situation.   

If you are fully vaccinated and are planning international travel, please consider the following:

  • The CDC order requiring pre-departure testing to travel or return to the U.S. applies to all air travelers, even those who are fully vaccinated.  
  • If you test positive before travel to the United States, you will be denied boarding and may have to undergo a mandatory quarantine at your overseas location.  Unexpected delays or quarantines may result in unexpected expenses for the traveler.  Have a plan in case you have to remain overseas longer than anticipated. This includes being ready to cover additional lodging costs, flight ticket change fees, and any other additional expenses they may incur due to the unexpected extension. Travelers may find it difficult to access general medical care in another country as the pandemic has strained health care capacity in some areas.  
  • Border closures, airline disruptions, and other local restrictions may occur and could adversely impact your travel plans.  

The CDC recommends that you do not travel internationally until you are fully vaccinated. Please review additional CDC guidance for fully vaccinated travelers.  

The Department of State recommends U.S. citizens who travel internationally purchase travel insurance. To learn more, please visit this page.

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How to get a Vaccine in the United States

Travelers who wish to get vaccinated after they arrive to the United States should visit Vaccines.gov or call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 888-720-7489) to find a nearby location.

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Cruise Ship Passengers

The CDC recommends avoiding cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status including river cruises, worldwide.  If you travel on a cruise ship, make sure you are fully vaccinated before you travel and get a COVID-19 vaccine booter dose if you are eligible.  While even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants, it is especially important that people who are not fully vaccinated and at an increased risk of severe illness avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises. The CDC notes there is increased risk of infection of COVID-19 on cruise ships. Many countries have implemented strict screening procedures and mandatory quarantines, which may cause unexpected delays and expenses. 

Passengers with plans to travel by cruise ship should contact their cruise line companies directly for further information, continue to monitor the travel.state.gov website, and read the latest information from the CDC

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U.S. Students Abroad

The CDC recommends  institutes of higher education (IHE) consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs. In addition, the CDC recommends IHE consider asking current program participants to return to their home country.