January 21, 2021

Volume XI, Number 21

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Negative COVID-19 Test or Proof of Recovery from COVID-19 Required for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States

Effective January 26, 2021, by order of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all air passengers age two (2) and older arriving in the United States from a foreign country must be tested for COVID-19 and present proof of a negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. 

Travelers originating in a foreign country will need to present the following before being allowed to board a flight bound for the United States:

  1. Proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted no more than three (3) days prior to departure for the United States; OR

  2. A recent positive viral test AND a letter from a healthcare provider or a public health official stating that the individual is cleared to travel.

Importantly, the CDC order:

  1. Requires airlines to deny boarding to any traveler who does not present documentation (electronic or printed) of:

    • A viral test (NAAT or antigen test) to determine if the traveler is currently infected with COVID-19. 

    • Recovery and proof of completion of all isolation requirements for those who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last three (3) months, i.e., positive test result and letter from healthcare provider that indicates clearance for travel.

  2. Applies to all travelers over two (2) years of age, including U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), and nonimmigrants.

  3. Applies to all flights, including commercial, private, and charter, even if connecting through the United States to another country. Crew members on official duty and who meet industry standard protocols surrounding COVID-19 are exempt.

  4. Requires testing within the three (3) days before the flight that arrives in the United States where the connecting flight to the United States is booked separately or a connection in the itinerary lasts longer than 24 hours.

  5. Does not provide an exception to any existing presidential proclamation that would otherwise prevent an individual from traveling to the United States based on visa type or country of departure.

  6. Recommends but does not require that travelers be tested three (3) to five (5) days after travel AND stay home or otherwise self-quarantine for seven (7) days after travel if tested and ten (10) days if not tested. 

  7. Recommends but does not require that travelers be tested one (1) to three (3) days prior to return travel to home country.

Travelers should always check state and location recommendations or requirements related to travel within the United States and their country of origin.

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Copyright © 2020 Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 13
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About this Author

Jennifer Cory, Womble Carlyle Law Firm, Charlotte North Carolina, Immigration LawAttorney

Jennifer Cory leads Womble Carlyle Immigration Solutions, which provides management of inbound immigration services for domestic and international employers and investors. Jennifer has practiced immigration law since 1995 and is certified as a Specialist in Immigration Law by the North Carolina State Bar.

Jennifer’s work focuses on employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions, including, but not limited to, preparation of treaty investor/trader visa applications, H-1B temporary worker petitions and L-...

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Susan Ramos  North Carolina WBD Immigration Attorney Consular processing Humanitarian Relief  Workplace Compliance Spanish Speaking
Senior Counsel

Susan is an immigration lawyer with over fifteen years of experience assisting individuals, families, and employers in connection with assessing available U.S. immigration options.

Her practice includes preparing and filing individual, family-based, and employment-based petitions, immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications, and waivers of inadmissibility. She assists with complex consular processing issues, complicated citizenship and naturalization issues, petitions for humanitarian relief, and removal defense. She advises employers regarding worksite compliance, conducting...

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