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U.S. COVID testing requirements for flying internationally

Travelers flying into the U.S. no longer need to have a negative COVID-19 test before their arrival.

UPDATE (6/14/22): The CDC updated its guidance for international travelers, no longer requiring a negative COVID-19 test to enter the U.S. The update took effect on June 12, 2022. Read our updated story here.

Travel requirements continue to evolve during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a federal judge recently overturning the national mask mandate for planes and other forms of public transportation. The Justice Department has since appealed that decision.

Since the decision was announced, VERIFY viewers have wondered whether other travel mandates remain in place. Shirley texted the team to ask if negative COVID-19 tests are required to enter the U.S. from a foreign country.

THE QUESTION

Is a negative COVID-19 test required to fly into the U.S. from a foreign country?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, a negative COVID-19 test is required to fly into the U.S. from a foreign country. 

WHAT WE FOUND

Though the mask mandate covering planes is lifted, for now, the requirement for international travelers to provide a negative COVID-19 test remains in place. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s ruling on the mask mandate does not address the testing policy. 

An order from the CDC requires people traveling internationally to get a COVID-19 test no more than one day before flying into the United States, regardless of their vaccination status. Travelers must show their negative results to the airline before boarding their flight. 

The U.S. Embassy in Canada and the CDC say the testing requirement applies to anyone age 2 and older. Exemptions will be considered “on an extremely limited basis,” and those looking to apply for one should contact their nearest embassy or consulate, according to the Embassy. 

Rapid antigen and PCR tests are both accepted as proof of a negative result. According to the CDC, the test “must be authorized for use by the relevant national authority” for COVID-19 detection in the country where the test is administered. 

Those who recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days don’t need to test negative, and can instead provide proof through their previous positive test result and a letter from a health care provider or public health official saying they have been cleared to travel. The CDC does not require a negative COVID-19 test for travelers with a recent COVID-19 diagnosis because a person can continue to test positive for the virus for up to three months

RELATED: Yes, you can test positive for COVID-19 on PCR tests for up to 12 weeks after infection

Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines say passengers flying into the U.S. without negative COVID-19 tests or proof of recovery will be denied boarding. Delta passengers can also provide health documentation online before checking in for their flight. 

American Airlines has information on its website about packable rapid test kits that travelers can use before their return flight into the U.S. If you use a rapid test kit, the procedure must include a “telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test,” the CDC says. In other words, someone needs to watch you take the test virtually. 

Abott offers this service through its BinaxNOW Home Test with a guide who walks you through the testing process. Results will be available about 20 minutes after you take the test, Abbott says. Azova, an online health care company, also offers observation appointments for a variety of home test kits. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also requires many noncitizens entering the U.S. via plane, land or boat to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof upon request.

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