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Passports, Visas, and COVID-19 Tests, Oh My! CDC Imposes Stricter COVID-19 Testing Requirements for Travelers Entering the United States

his holiday season, and for the indefinite future, international travelers seeking to enter the United States will have to add another item to their travel itineraries: a COVID-19 test appointment.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order on December 2, 2021, amending requirements related to a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 for all airline passengers arriving into the United States from any foreign country. The new order will require all travelers seeking to enter the United States, regardless of vaccination status, to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States. This amended order follows the recently announced travel restrictions imposed for travelers from eight southern African countries in response to the recently discovered Omicron variant, which has been classified as “a variant of concern” by the World Health Organization. The prior travel policy required fully vaccinated travelers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to boarding an aircraft.

The new CDC order applies to all travelers, including U.S. citizens. The new testing requirements went into effect on December 6, 2021. Per the CDC order, all airlines with passengers arriving into the United States from a foreign country must confirm that every passenger onboard the aircraft, two years of age or older, has provided proof of a qualifying negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, such as proof of a positive COVID-19 test taken no more than 90 calendar days prior to boarding the flight.

Qualifying Test Requirements

The CDC has outlined the requirements for acceptable documentation of test results. Only test results that include the following will be accepted:

  • personal identifiers (e.g., name and date of birth) on the negative test result (these personal identifiers should match the personal identifiers on the passenger’s passport or other travel documents);

  • the specimen collection date verifying that the specimen was collected no more than one calendar day before the flight’s departure (or the departure date of the first flight in a series of connections booked as part of the same itinerary);

  • an indication that the test is a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) or antigen test;

  • test result stating “NEGATIVE,” “SARS-CoV-2 RNA NOT DETECTED,” “SARS-CoV-2 ANTIGEN NOT DETECTED,” or “COVID-19 NOT DETECTED,” or containing other indications that SARS-CoV-2 was not detected in the individual’s specimen (a test marked “invalid” is not acceptable); and

  • information about the entity issuing the test result (e.g., laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service), including the entity’s name and contact information.

Documentation of Recovery Requirements

Travelers who have recently recovered from COVID-19 are alternatively permitted to show documentation of positive SARS-CoV-2 viral test results, collected no more than 90 calendar days preceding the travelers’ scheduled flights to the United States. A positive COVID-19 test must include:

  • personal identifiers (e.g., name and date of birth) on the positive test result (these personal identifiers should match the personal identifiers on the passenger’s passport or other travel documents);

  • the specimen collection date verifying that the specimen was collected no more than 90 calendar days before the flight’s departure (or the departure date of the first flight in a series of connections booked as part of the same itinerary);

  • an indication that the test is a NAAT or antigen test;

  • a test result stating “POSITIVE,” “SARS-CoV-2 RNA DETECTED,” SARS-CoV-2 ANTIGEN DETECTED, or “COVID-19 DETECTED,” or other indication that SARS-CoV-2 was detected in the individual’s specimen (a test marked “invalid” is not acceptable); and

  • information about the entity issuing the test result (e.g., laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service), including the entity’s name and contact information.

In addition, a traveler who has recently recovered from COVID-19 and who is seeking to enter the United States by showing proof of a recent COVID-19 positive test must present a signed letter from a licensed healthcare provider or public health official stating that he or she has been cleared for travel. The letter must include personal identifiers that match the traveler’s passport or other travel documents and must be signed and dated on official letterhead that contains the name, address, and phone number of the healthcare provider who signed the letter.

The new travel policy took effect for flights departing at or after 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on December 6, 2021. The new requirements will remain in effect unless modified or rescinded by the U.S. secretary of health and human services.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 341
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About this Author

Rosa M. Corriveau Employment & Immigration Attorney Ogletree Deakins Law Firm Raleigh, NC
Associate

Rosa Corriveau is an attorney in the Raleigh office of Ogletree Deakins. Her practice focuses on employment-based immigration matters.

Rosa attended Lenoir-Rhyne University, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Economics summa cum laude. She received her Juris Doctor from Campbell University School of Law. During law school, Rosa was a member of the Mock Trial Team, a class representative in the Student Bar Association, and served as the Secretary and Vice-President of the Hispanic Student Law Association. At graduation, Rosa was...

919-789-3221
Jacob A. Kanyusik Immigration Attorney Ogletree Deakins Law Firm
Associate

Jake Kanyusik practices immigration law in the Denver office of Ogletree Deakins. He has extensive experience providing strategic counsel to both corporate and individual clients on both employment-based and family-based matters including non-immigrant and immigrant visa matters including H-1Bs, TNs, E-1s, E-2s, E-3s, L-1s, O-1s, PERM, EB-1s, National Interest Waivers, and Adjustment of Status. Jake has represented clients across the board including large companies in industries such as tech, healthcare, insurance, financial and banking, commercial oil and gas, trucking and logistics, and...

303-764-6800
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