Covid Testing FAQs For International Travelers To USA

After the World Health Organization declared Omicron a Variant of Concern (VoC) travel is tightened across the globe. Many governments, airlines and travelers have altered their plans for the coming weeks. Until further information is received, the US government has issued new guidelines for all travelers arriving into the United States. 

Effective December 6, 2021, all travelers, including US citizens, non-US citizens including green card holders and non-immigrant visa holders must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight. This test has to be taken within 1 day of flight departure.

Those who have recovered from Covid should have proof from a certified doctor showing recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Non-US citizens must be fully vaccinated with the complete series of the vaccines and have proof of their vaccination. Lastly, all travelers must attest to the authenticity of their declaration and provide contact tracing information. 

Where Can You Get Tested For Covid-19 Before Flying To The USA?

Now that the duration for Covid testing has been shortened to one day prior to boarding your flight to the US, it is important that you identify and locate a testing center that has a 24-hour turn-around time.

We recommend consulting local health authorities to find out how to get tested for COVID-19 before traveling. In bigger cities in India, for example, the lab technicians come home to test you themselves. 

Since each location or testing center has its own system, all travelers are advised to contact testing locations directly for detailed information on costs, location, sample collection and results notification.

In-Home Testing Options

While some offer in-person testing others may send the test kit home and you will be able to acquire the results sooner. When it comes to in-home testing, an antigen test is recommended in most cases. However, it is important that you confirm with the airlines if the results will be accepted by them for boarding a US bound flight. Some transit destinations do not accept in-home tests or may not allow you to bring an in-home test into the destination for U.S. reentry purposes. Please confirm government guidelines before selecting this option.

  •  eMed/Abbott BinaxNow Rapid Antigen Testing Kit  
  • Observed and verified lab result rapid antigen test satisfies COVID-19 testing requirements for US re-entry.
  • Total time needed for test: approximately 30 minutes.

Which Covid Tests Are Acceptable For US Travel?

US requires that you get tested 24-hours prior to boarding a flight headed to the US.  The most commonly accepted Covid tests is the RT-PCR test. However, some locations also offer the nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), which is also acceptable for US travel. Important to note is that Antibody tests are not accepted to board a flight to the USA.

The following other tests are acceptable for US travel:

  • LAMP test 
  • TMA test 
  • NEAR test 
  • HDA test  

What Should Be Included In Your Covid Test For US Travel?

Most testing locations give the option of giving you your test results in either paper format or an as an electronic copy. We recommend that you get a copy of both since different airlines and ports of entry require different variations.

The test result should include – 

  1. Type of test (indicating NAAT or antigen test) 
  2. Passport number of the traveler
  3. Name and identifying details of the traveler including date of birth
  4. Who issued the result – namely, laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service and their contact information including their phone number, fax number, & email address
  5. Date of the test – Since the US requires that the negative test result show a COVID-19 test taken within 1 day before departure, the date should be mentioned clearly. If using a recent positive test result with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 instead of a negative COVID test, the positive test should be taken within 90 days before travel.
  6. Final test result, which should be negative before travel.

When Should You Take The Test Before Flying To The USA?

The Covid test must be taken within 1 day of a direct flight’s departure. This applies to all customers over the age of 2, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, including US citizens, permanent residents and non-immigrant visa holders like B2 tourist visas.

Who Is Exempt From The Testing Requirement?

The US has mandated a negative Covid test taken a 1 day prior to boarding a US bound flight for all travelers. However, they have made an exception for some – 

  • Children under 2  
  • Federal law enforcement and military personnel on orders   
    Customers returning from US territories including Puerto Rico, U.S.V.I  
  • Travelers who recently had COVID-19 and can provide both a positive COVID-19 test result dated within 90 days prior to travel and a letter from a healthcare provider or a public health official that states they are cleared to travel. 

Important Points To Keep In Mind

  • Negative Covid tests are required even if travelers have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Customers without their negative COVID-19 test results, a signed attestation showing the veracity of the test results and all details supporting contact tracing will be denied boarding.
  • Customers who have recovered from COVID-19 can travel with a positive test (taken within the past 90 days before travel) and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or public health official stating that the customer has been cleared for travel, in lieu of the negative COVID test result
  • All non-US citizens should be fully vaccinated before entering the US. this means they should have taken the one dose of a single-dose vaccine or the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine 14 days before boarding the flight.
  • Acceptable vaccines for US travel include J&J (Janssen), Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm and Sinovac 
  • Connecting flights cannot have a layover that is longer than 48 hours. The negative Covid test will have to be shown even when boarding the connecting flight at every airport and for each airline before departure.

As CDC and TSA unveil new travel guidelines it is important to keep abreast of all changes before you board your flight. At Path2USA, you get your latest information, updated daily.