Are you planning to travel to the U.S. in the near future? Expect to undergo more rigorous testing. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shortening the testing window all international air travelers have to take a pre-departure coronavirus test from three days to one. Before this, travelers who were not vaccinated had to have a test done within one day of departure. 

According to an updated CDC order, the shorter timeframe aims “to provide less opportunity for infection with the omicron variation prior to arriving in the United States.” 

U.S. airlines have been asked to collect contact-tracing information for inbound international travelers and send it to the CDC “upon request” since Nov. 8, when the country adopted a new set of international travel restrictions. 

The information collected includes names, addresses, phone numbers, emails and dates of birth.  

These are the essential facts for international travellers to know about new requirements regarding testing:

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What date will the new rules take effect?

The new rules go into effect Monday at 12:01 a.m. EST and affect all air passengers 2 years and older flying into the U.S. from a foreign county, regardless of vaccination status or nationality. All travelers who are able to show that they have been treated for COVID-19 within the past 90-days will be exempt.  

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What sort of test can I take to fly into the US? 

Travelers must take a viral test, which includes antigen tests and nucleic acid amplification tests such as:

  • reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests
  • Tests for reverse transcription loop-mediated itothermal amplification
  • transcription-mediated amplification (TMA) tests
  • nicking enzyme amplification reaction (NEAR) tests
  • helicase-dependent amplification (HDA) tests.

All tests must be approved for use in that country where they were administered. According to the CDC, certain at-home and rapid tests can be accepted.

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What is the difference between a 24-hour and a one-day order?

The one-day period offers more flexibility than a 24-hour time limit and allows travelers to take a test any time the day before departure. For example, travelers with a 5 p.m. flight on a Friday can board with a negative test taken at 8 a.m. on Thursday.  

What are the requirements for taking another test upon arrival?

The CDC recommends all inbound air passengers get another viral test three to five days after arrival, and says unvaccinated travelers should quarantine for seven days after travel.

Are masks required for flights?

Yes. The federal mask mandate, which requires travelers to mask up on airplanes, trains, buses and in airports and train stations, was extended through March 18. 

Travelers who refuse to wear masks may face fines ranging from a minimum of $500 to $3,000 for repeat offenders, although the mandate does carve out exemptions for travelers under the age of 2 and people with certain disabilities.

► Federal mask mandate to be extended:You should be ready to conceal your face on flights between February and March

 Follow Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY’s reporter on Twitter @bailey_schulz



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