USA Tightens Pre-arrival Testing Timeline for All Incoming International Travelers with Effect from December 6

In response to the first case of Omicron reported in California, the US government has tightened the guidelines for travel to and within the country. Vaccination, COVID-19 testing and mask mandate will rigorously be continued as part of a broader plan to prevent America from slipping into another wave of the pandemic.

The Biden administration revised the pre-arrival testing protocol for international travelers flying into the United States and announced it during a White House briefing on December 2. Travelers arriving on international flights to USA from India and other countries are required to take a COVID-19 viral test no more than one calendar day before scheduled international flight departure, rather than 72 hours.

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Reportedly, this change is one of the very first steps towards securing the US borders against the new variant and took effect on December 6 at 12:01 am EST (5:01 am GMT). All USA-bound travelers, regardless of their nationality, visa type, vaccination and country of travel origin, will have to follow the new pre-departure testing timeline that has been reduced to one calendar day from 72 hours.

President Biden is likely to introduce additional measures to augment the safety of inbound international travel. “Our doctors believe tightening testing requirements for pre-departure will help catch more cases, potential cases of people who may be positive and inside the country. This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the new variant,” a senior administration official said.

Until December 5, 2021, only unvaccinated Americans and Green cardholders (LPRs) were required to take a COVID-19 viral test within 24 hours before boarding a flight to the US. The 72-hour testing window was open only to vaccinated travelers flying into USA until the recent revision of the pre-departure testing timeline. According to the White House briefing dated December 2, the revised timeline applies to all US-bound international travelers, regardless of nationality and vaccination.

What types of a COVID-19 viral test are acceptable for international travel to USA?

The COVID-19 viral test that you are required to take no more than one calendar day before your scheduled departure from India should be either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP), transcription-mediated amplification (TMA), nicking enzyme amplification reaction (NEAR) and helicase-dependent amplification (HDA) are various types of an NAAT. Whatever type of an NAAT test you take in India should be authorized for by the government of India for detection of COVID-19.

What information should your negative COVID-19 viral test report have?

The report must include such essential details as whether the test taken is an antigen or NAAT test; sample collection date; test result (positive or negative); your full name and date of birth or passport number; name of the laboratory or healthcare facility where the test is taken; and a QR code. Your name on the report must match the name on your passport. The report must be issued in written format. You must show a paper or digital copy of the report to the airline prior to boarding your international flight to USA in India.

Any alternative to a negative COVID-19 viral test report for travel to USA?

There is no alternative to a negative COVID-19 viral test report for all international travelers flying into the US. You don’t require a negative COVID-19 viral test report as mentioned above only if you recovered from COVID-19 and had a positive viral test during the past 90 days preceding your scheduled travel to the US from India. The CDC allows you to travel with your positive viral test result and a signed letter from a licensed healthcare professional or a public health official that confirms you are safe and fit for international travel. The documentation of recovery refers to the positive test report and the letter together.

Is there any restriction on entry into USA for travelers from India?

Currently, there is no restriction on travel to the US for fully-vaccinated, asymptomatic, COVID-negative travelers from India. If you were physically present in any of the eight restricted countries during a period of 14 days before your planned arrival in the US, you will be denied boarding in India. South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Mozambique are the restricted countries, according to the US Presidential Proclamation issued on November 26, 2021. However, this restriction does not apply to US citizens and lawful permanent residents.

What personal information do I need to provide to the US-bound airline?

The guidelines for international travel to USA, which have been effective since November 8, 2021, require you to provide your contact information to the airline prior to boarding an international flight to the US. The contact information must include your full name as per the passport, primary contact number, secondary/emergency contact number, valid email address, and address in the US. Apart this, you must acknowledge that your contact information is complete and accurate.

7 thoughts on “USA Tightens Pre-arrival Testing Timeline for All Incoming International Travelers with Effect from December 6

  1. Wil

    Requirement says one day before than 24 hours. I have a flight with departure time of Monday at 02:55AM from Mumbai. I will also take a domestic flight to Mumbai which will give me just about 6 hours of transit time at Mumbai. Since I will need to be checking in 3 hours before which would be Sunday night around 11:30PM, would one day constitute Sunday or Saturday. This will help me figure out if I need to take a rapid test at Mumbai on Sunday or If I can take a PCR or rapid at domestic airport location.

    • indianeagle Post author

      Hi Wil! Yours is a critical situation. As per the guidelines of CDC, a federal health agency of the US, you need to take a viral COVID-19 test no more than one calendar day before your scheduled international departure. Sunday is the calendar day before your international departure on Monday.

    • indianeagle Post author

      Hi Ram! To the best of our knowledge, the connecting flight is the flight in a third country where you transit before entering the US.

      • Ram Vasudevan

        I stand corrected Indianeagle. My parents (who are travelling) got a call from Air India saying the Covid test needs to be taken within 24 hrs of the Departing International Flight. My parents are flying Chennai – Mumbai – Newark.

  2. Das

    We are flying from MAA to USA via by Emirates Air connecting flight at DXB on Jan 7th. We are planning to take the test at Chennai airport on the day of the trip. There are two tests, one Rapid PCR ( 1 hour result) and the other Regular PCR test (6hour result) given by HindLab at the Airport. Which one of these two tests is accepted by both the Emirates Air boarding, and the USA entry?

    • indianeagle Post author

      Hi Das! The negative report of a regular RT-PCR test is accepted by all foreign countries including the USA and the UAE. Please be advised to check whether the HindLab is approved by ICMR and make sure that the report is issued with a QR code.


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