Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery Documentation Required of All U.S. Inbound Air Travelers

By Turid Owren, Alan Perkins, and Melany Savitt

The CDC has issued an Order effective January 26, 2021 impacting all U.S. inbound air travelers two years of age or older, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The Order applies to all flights, including commercial, private, and charter flights. Separate requirements apply to airline crew members on official duty.

All inbound air travelers will be required to attest to the CDC to a negative coronavirus test (viral NAAT or antigen test) conducted within the three calendar day period prior to departure for the United States. Documentation of satisfactory test results must be provided to the airline prior to departure. Delayed flights pushing the test results outside the three-day window will require re-testing. 

Inbound air travelers who have previously tested positive and recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days prior to departure for the United States must attest to the CDC and provide documentation to the airline that they have been cleared for travel by a licensed healthcare provider or public health official. 

Proof of vaccination will not be a substitute for one of these two requirements. Airlines will deny boarding for failure to provide a negative test result or documentation of COVID-19 recovery. Attestation collection may be incorporated into airline paperless check-in procedures. Documentation must be retained by travelers and provided upon request to the airline or any federal or cooperating state or local government health official. Failure to comply may subject an individual to criminal penalties. 

  • This Order does not supersede the current executive orders restricting entry into the United States for foreign nationals who have been physically present in the past 14 days in certain countries.
  • This Order supersedes a prior order issued December 25, 2020 impacting airline travelers arriving from the United Kingdom.

The Order expires December 31, 2021 or earlier upon CDC rescission.

This client alert is prepared for the general information of our clients and friends. It should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have any questions regarding this update, or for more information about this topic, please contact any of the attorneys in our Immigration Practice Group, or the attorney with whom you normally consult. 

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