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The New U.S. Entry Rules for Unvaccinated Americans

By Michelle Baran

Sep 22, 2021

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Unvaccinated Americans traveling abroad will soon have to take an additional COVID test upon re-entering the U.S.

Photo by Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

Unvaccinated Americans traveling abroad will soon have to take an additional COVID test upon re-entering the U.S.

It’s about to get a bit tougher for unvaccinated U.S. travelers to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad.

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When U.S. officials announced this week that the ban on international travel will be lifted in November for those who are vaccinated, they also added some stricter protocols for unvaccinated Americans entering the United States.

Currently, all international passengers flying into the United States who are age two and older—including returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents—must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test (PCR, antigen, or approved home or self tests) taken within three days prior to boarding their flight to the U.S., according to an order issued on January 12 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Going forward, fully vaccinated Americans will continue to be held to this requirement, but unvaccinated Americans will need to be tested within 24 hours of boarding their flight to the U.S. (versus three days, making it even more of a last-minute scramble) and will need to test again after their arrival.

For the post-entry test, Americans who are not vaccinated will need to provide “proof they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing on Monday. She said that the post-arrival test requirement for unvaccinated travelers would also apply to children.

While the official CDC order outlining the specifics of the new entry requirements has yet to be released, Psaki shed some additional light on how the new protocols will be carried out and enforced.

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“The CDC is going to issue a contact tracing order that will require airlines to collect comprehensive contact information for every passenger coming to the United States and to provide that information promptly to the CDC upon request to follow up with travelers . . . and these requirements will apply globally,” Psaki said at the Monday press briefing.

The CDC currently recommends U.S. citizens to not travel internationally until they are fully vaccinated. The agency advises both those who are vaccinated as well as those who are not to wear masks while traveling, monitor for symptoms, and get tested for COVID-19 three to five days after arriving back in the U.S. following an international trip. But it adds that unvaccinated international travelers should also get tested one to three days prior to departure and should quarantine for seven days after arriving stateside, even if they produce a negative COVID test result.

>> Next: We Reviewed the CDC-Approved COVID Home Tests for International Travel—Here’s What to Know

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