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These Are the Guidelines for Entering America

Starting at the end of the month—Tuesday, January 26 to be exact—the U.S. will require all incoming passengers to be tested for coronavirus. Here are the guidelines.

Generally speaking, there is no distinction between Americans and foreign nationals arriving into the U.S for this policy. Under these guidelines, everyone arriving into the U.S. is the one and same, even though the travel bans implemented last year are still active.

Eventually, we suspect the travel ban will be lifted, as so much has changed since then (it’s been what? Three lifetimes since then?). Signs of progress, folks, let’s cling onto them.

All arriving air passengers will be required to:

  • Get tested 72 hours before departing flight
    • Provide written documentation, paper or electronic, of their lab test result
    • The airline will confirm or deny boarding
  • Get tested 3-5 days after arrival
  • Quarantine for 7 days at destination

For those arriving on connecting flights, those connecting flights must be booked as a single passenger record, and each connection must have been no longer than 24 hours.

For those that previously had COVID:

  • The positive test result occurred in the last three months (90 days) before the flight, or as specified in CDC guidance;
  • The passenger has been cleared for travel by a medical professional
    • It must be signed letter on official letterhead that contains the name, address, and phone number of a licensed healthcare provider stating specifically so

It is currently unclear how the CDC and immigration plan to enforce post-arrival testing and quarantining, but probably just like everyone else, we are all just figuring it out as we go along!

There are exceptions for crew and the like, but, yeah, they are most likely not relevant to most people. The exact procedures from the CDC can be read here.

Read the initial press release:


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States. Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19. This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans.

Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants. With the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public.

Before departure to the United States, a required test, combined with the CDC recommendations to get tested again 3-5 days after arrival and stay home for 7 days post-travel, will help slow the spread of COVID-19 within US communities from travel-related infections. Pre-departure testing with results known and acted upon before travel begins will help identify infected travelers before they board airplanes.

Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk,” says CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, “but when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations.”

This order was signed by the CDC Director on January 12, 2021 and will become effective on January 26, 2021.

These Are the Guidelines for Entering America via @maphappy
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