Travelers Still Need a COVID Test to Enter the U.S.

Neither the White House nor the CDC has provided any indication that the mandatory testing rule will be relaxed anytime soon.

Travelers Still Need a COVID Test to Enter the U.S.

The U.S. will not yet be joining other countries that have dropped the COVID testing requirement for travel.

Photo by Shutterstock

Back in January 2021, the Biden administration put in place a COVID test requirement for all travelers entering the United States, vaccinated or not. This past December, amid the Omicron-fueled surge of COVID cases, the requirement became even more stringent when people were asked to obtain a negative COVID test result within one day of departure (versus three).

International travelers might be wondering if the testing requirement will ever end, especially given that Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia, among other countries, have scrapped their testing rules for vaccinated travelers. Will the U.S. follow suit? The White House continues to respond with a resounding “not yet.”

When asked during a May 3 press briefing if the U.S. has plans to change the international testing requirement, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters, “I’m not aware of a timeline for that.”

Her response came one month after Jeff Zients, President Biden’s former COVID-19 coordinator, told the media that “there are no plans to change the international travel requirements at this point.”

That news may come as a disappointment to travelers—60 percent of whom want the COVID-19 testing requirement for inbound international travelers to be removed, according to a survey released by travel app TripIt from Concur. TripIt surveyed more than 700 of its U.S.-based users last month and found that 44 percent would be more likely to travel if the requirement was dropped.

On May 5, more than 250 travel companies, including the nation’s largest hotel groups and leading airlines, sent a letter to Dr. Ashish Jha, the incoming COVID-19 response coordinator for the White House, urging the administration to drop the international testing requirement.

“We have now reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19,” read the letter, which argued that stronger immunity provided by vaccines, boosters, and prior infections, as well as effective treatments to prevent the worst outcomes of COVID-19, have enabled Americans to safely return to work and school and to resume normal activities.

“These factors strongly support the elimination of the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated international air travelers,” the letter stated. It noted that the economic toll associated with maintaining the testing measure is “significant” with business travel spending still 56 percent below 2019 levels, and international travel spending still down a “staggering” 78 percent compared to 2019.

For now, all international arrivals, vaccinated or not, continue to need a negative COVID result (via PCR, antigen, or approved home or self tests) no more than one calendar day before flying to the United States. All foreign nationals entering the United States must also be vaccinated.

This story was originally published on April 6, 2022, and has been updated to include current information.

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Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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