Significant Changes to COVID-19 Testing for International Travel to U.S.

The CDC has introduced new requirements for international travellers to the United States effective as of December 6, 2021.

All air passengers two years or older arriving in the United States from a foreign country at or after 12:01 a.m. EST on December 6, 2021, are required show a negative COVID-19 viral test result taken no more than one day before travel, or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, before they board their flight. This change applies to all air travellers, including Canadians.

The Amended Order

On December 2, 2021, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the Department of Health and Human Services amended its October 25, 2021 Amended Order, titled, “Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States” (the “Order”).

This new amendment updates COVID-19 testing requirements for air passengers two years of age or older boarding a flight departing to the U.S. from a foreign country at or after 12:01am EST (5:01 a.m. GMT) on December 6, 2021. The previous October 25th Amended Order required testing for passengers age five and up.

The Order does not apply to land border crossings or persons arriving at seaports.

Test and Vaccination Documentation Requirements

Any aircraft passenger departing from any foreign country with a destination in the United States shall:

  1. provide a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day before travel, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the past 90 days; and
  2. retain a copy of the negative qualifying test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 and present it for inspection to the airline and United States officials at the port of entry, and local/state health departments, if requested.

Any flight entering the United States from a foreign country, even for a connection, will require testing before departure. Flights from a United States territory or state are not considered foreign countries for the purposes of the Order.

Acceptable Tests Under the Order

Passengers must take a viral test that is either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (“NAAT”). The test used must be authorized for use by the relevant national authority for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in the country where the test is administered. Rapid antigen tests are acceptable if they meet those requirements.

Travellers may use self-tests or home tests if they meet the following criteria:

  • the test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test (NAAT or antigen test) with Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration;
  • the testing procedure must include a telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test that provides real-time supervision remotely through an audio and video connection;
  • the telehealth provider must confirm your identity, observe the sample collection and testing procedures, confirm the test result, and issue a written report; and
  • airlines, aircraft operators, and U.S. officials must be able to review and confirm your identity and the test result details.

The availability of rapid antigen based tests provides travellers with greater options when compared to tests accepted for travel to Canada.

If Your Flight is Delayed

If the first flight in your trip is delayed past the one day limit of testing due to a situation outside of your control (e.g., delays because of severe weather or aircraft mechanical problem), and that delay is 24 hours or less past the one day limit for testing, you do not need to take another test. If the delay is more than 24 hours past the one day limit, then you will need to take a new test.

If a connecting flight in your trip is delayed past the one day limit of testing due to a situation outside of your control, and that delay is less than 48 hours past the one day limit for testing, you do not need to take another test. If the delay is more than 48 hours past the one day limit, then you will need to take a new test.

Exemptions

Exemptions may be granted on an extremely limited basis when emergency travel must occur to preserve someone’s life, health against a serious danger, or physical safety and testing cannot be completed before travel.

We will continue to monitor the restrictions and the exemptions as they are provided by the Government of Canada. To stay up-to-date with all current immigration and COVID-19 updates, visit the MLT Aikins COVID-19 Resource Centre.

The immigration group at MLT Aikins can provide guidance and assistance in ensuring that all prospective travellers are fully aware of their ability to travel and whether any exemptions apply.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.