Effective at 12:01 a.m. EST on June 12, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted its COVID-19 testing requirement for air travelers entering the U.S. from foreign countries. However, the CDC continues to recommend that travelers take a COVID-19 test no more than three days before flying and refrain from traveling if they are:
• sick or have COVID-19 symptoms
• awaiting COVID-19 test results
• recently tested positive, or
• had close contact with someone who tested positive and is recommended to quarantine
Meanwhile, most non-U.S. citizens entering the country must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
The CDC restriction had been in place since January 2021, drawing sharp criticism from the airline and travel industries, already hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the CDC policy, all air travelers over the age of two were required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of departure or documentation of recovery within the previous 90 days before boarding a flight to the U.S. from a foreign country. The restriction applied equally to all passengers, regardless of nationality or vaccination status.
In December 2021, the CDC amended its policy to require air travelers from foreign countries to the U.S. to show proof of a negative test within one day of boarding a flight. This change came about due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
The lifting of the testing restriction is welcome as the U.S. enters summer, one of the busiest travel seasons of the year. Travel industry officials, who had lobbied hard against the policy in recent months, are looking forward to a highly profitable season amid a slumping economy, particularly after two years in which the pandemic has severely curtailed travel. Airlines also hoped that lifting restrictions would bring international travel to the U.S. back to pre-pandemic levels; as of May 2022, international travel was lagging at 14% below normal.
The CDC indicated that it intends to reevaluate its policy after 90 days and periodically after that. However, the CDC also reiterated that it would not hesitate to reinstate a testing requirement if necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of Americans in the future.
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