As U.S. Covid-19 deaths approach half a million people, the Biden administration is moving swiftly with a wide range of new travel restrictions. These restrictions will make travelling into the U.S. very difficult. The new administration is not apologetic about this, as the feeling is you should not be traveling while Covid-19 is exploding in the U.S. and around the world. Many of these new travel restrictions still need to be spelled out in detail so you should check this post periodically for updates if you are planning to travel into the United States. Updates will be highlighted in red.
The “essential travel” requirements are still in place if you are trying to enter the U.S. by land, commuter rail, ferry, or boating. However, under the Trump administration rules currently in place, you can enter the U.S. by air for any reason without any type of quarantine requirement. That is about to change. For a complete discussion of what constitutes essential travel see our post on “Coronavirus Travel Issues”. The Travel Issues post also covers a wide range of additional issues that are applicable to both the U.S. and Canada so be sure to read it after finishing this post.
The U.S. has placed restrictions on travel from a wide range of countries including China, Brazil, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and 26 other European countries
We have links to numerous resources at the end of this post to help you get more information on the topics we discuss here.
International Traveler Quarantine Requirement
President Biden has directed U.S. federal agencies to implement a mandatory quarantine requirement for international air travelers arriving in the U.S. Details on this requirement and the implementation date will released as plans are finalized. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a seven-day quarantine for air travelers arriving in the United States after being tested.
The order also directs U.S. agencies to hold talks with Canada and Mexico “regarding public health protocols for land ports of entry“. This could lead to a quarantine program very similar to that in effect in Canada which currently requires quarantine for most inbound travelers. The president also wants new health restrictions for sea ports of entry to the U.S.
Travelling to the U.S. by Airplane – New Covid-19 Testing Requirement
Beginning Jan. 26, 2021, the United States will require all passengers two years of age and older traveling to the United States from any international location to test negative for COVID-19. Passengers will have to show proof of a negative test to their airline before boarding. You will not be allowed to board your flight if you do not follow this directive from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC).
- This requirement applies to ALL air passengers 2 years of age or older.
- Your test must be taken no more than 3 days before your flight to the US departs.
- Make sure you are given a viral test – either a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) or a viral antigen test.
- Plan ahead to make sure that you will receive your results before your flight departs
- You will need to show your documentation to the airline before being allowed to board your flight.
- Your test result must be in the form of written documentation. You may display either the paper copy or an electronic copy of the result.
- The test result documentation must include information that identifies the person, a specimen collection date and the type of test.
- This order applies to ALL flights, including private and charter flights.
- The CDC is not designating any specific testing agencies that must be used. You will need to find the correct type of test on your own in the country you are departing from. Your airline will not offer you any type of testing.
- CDC attestation form: You will also need to fill out a CDC attestation form and submit it to your airline. Customers can print the form from the CDC’s website or complete one at the airport prior to departure. The airline will retain this form for 2 years. They will not retain your Covid-19 test result.
- The CDC does not recommend getting tested again in the three months after a positive viral test if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19. If you have had a positive viral test in the past 3 months, and you have met the criteria to end isolation, you may travel instead with documentation of your positive viral test results and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official that states you have been cleared for travel. The positive test result and letter together are referred to as “documentation of recovery.”
- You are required to provide the negative COVID-19 test result even if you have already received a Covid-19 vaccine shot.
Covid-19 Testing for Connecting Flights
Any flight entering the U.S. – even for a connection – will require testing before departure.
If you are arriving to the U.S. via one or more connecting flights, your test must be done in the 3 days before the first flight in your itinerary, but only if the connecting flights were booked as a single passenger record with a final destination in the US and each connection (layover) is no longer than 24 hours long. If your connecting flight to the US was booked separately or a connection in your itinerary lasts longer than 24 hours, you will need to get tested within the 3 days before your flight that arrives in the US.
Covid-19 Testing for Delayed Flights
If your flight is delayed before departure, you will need to get re-tested if the delay causes your test to fall outside of the 3-day pre-departure testing period requirement.
You are not required to quarantine after landing in the U.S. unless it is required by the state or area you are visiting. That could change at any time.
Airlines will prevent anyone who is showing symptoms of the virus from getting on a plane – including U.S. or Canadian citizens. Carriers are required to complete a basic health assessment of every passenger.
Canadians cannot drive across the border into the US, but they can fly into the country.
New Federal Mask Requirements
President Biden has used his executive authority to require face masks and social distancing efforts whenever you are on federal property or using a transportation service regulated by the federal government. The mask requirement applies to all federal employees and contractors, on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in federal buildings and on federal lands. The mask requirement will be enforced on a wide range of federal properties including federal parks and forests, federal courthouses, government offices and more. In addition, you must wear a mask while in airports, or while traveling on planes, ships, intercity buses, trains and most types of public transportation. Full details have not yet been released so watch this post for further updates as to when these requirements will go into effect and how they will be enforced.
U.S. State Travel Restrictions
Each of the 50 US. states have enacted their own regulations on travel within that state. Many now require facemasks in most public places. Some states have at times imposed quarantine requirements if you come from another state they consider high risk. To determine whether a trip you are planning will be limited by Covid-19, you will need to examine the regulations for each state you wish to travel through. The rules are changing constantly so make sure you have current information. We have links to state and province Coronavirus websites at the end of this post.
U.S. Government Coronavirus Websites
Below are some of the United State government websites which contain the latest guidance on Covid-19 and any rules and restrictions in place for travelers.
- Covid Information on the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website
- The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) travel recommendations and coronavirus medical information
- Links to the Health Department for every U.S. state. These websites will detail the rules to travel within a state including quarantine and facemask requirements.
- State Department Covid-19 coronavirus webpage
- The US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency has an exhaustive description of which jobs are essential services.