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Last updated 30 July 2021

Although the case count in India is now on a downward trajectory, governments around the world are still wary of opening their borders to Indian travellers. Amongst the 40 countries to have put a travel ban on India is the United States of America. The US restrictions on travellers from India have vexed several expats wanting to return home.

Are you allowed to travel to the US from India? Will you need to get tested? Do you need to quarantine? Read along to find out.

Can I travel from India to the USA?

In most cases, no.

India is on the USA’s travel prohibition list. This means that, with specific exceptions, non-citizens who were physically present in India during the 14-day period preceding travel, will not be allowed entry into the States.

The exceptions to this travel ban are:

  • lawful permanent residents of the US
  • non-citizen nationals of the US
  • non-citizen spouses of US citizens and lawful permanent residents
  • non-citizen parents and legal guardians of US citizens or lawful permanent residents, provided that the US citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21
  • non-citizen siblings of US citizens or lawful permanent residents, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21
  • non-citizen children, foster children, or wards of US citizens or lawful permanent residents
  • prospective adoptees seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications
  • non-citizens traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus
  • non-citizens traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any non-citizen otherwise traveling to the US
  • non- citizens:
    • seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to one of the following visas:  A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories)
    • whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement; as air or sea crew
  • non-citizens who are members of the US Armed Forces or who is a spouse or child of a member of the US Armed Forces
  • non-citizens whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee
  • non-citizens whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.

If you don’t fall in at least one of these categories, you cannot fly into the States.

 

Before travel to the USA

If you’re eligible to travel to the USA, you’ll need to take a COVID-19 test no more than 3 days before you travel and show the negative test result to the airline before boarding your flight.

Those who have recovered from COVID-19 in the three months preceding travel are exempt from the test. However, they’ll have to show the documentation of recovery, that is-

  • documentation of your positive viral test results
  • a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official that states you have been cleared for travel

Acceptable COVID-19 tests

Passengers must be tested with a viral test that could be either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT).

Examples of available NAATs for SARS-CoV-2 include but are not restricted to:

  • reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)
  • reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP)
  • transcription-mediated amplification (TMA)
  • nicking enzyme amplification reaction (NEAR)
  • helicase-dependent amplification (HDA)

The test used must be authorized for use by the relevant national authority for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in the country where the test is administered.

Rapid tests are acceptable as long as they are a viral test acceptable under the above criteria.

Test results

A test result must be in the form of written documentation (paper or electronic copy). The documentation must include:

  • Type of test (indicating it is a NAAT or antigen test)
  • Entity issuing the result (e.g. laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service)
  • Specimen collection date. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected within the 3 days before the flight. A positive test result for documentation of recovery from COVID-19 must show the specimen was collected within the 3 months before the flight.
  • Information that identifies the person (full name plus at least one other identifier such as date of birth or passport number)
  • Test Result

Airlines and other aircraft operators must be able to confirm the test result and review other required information and should determine when translation is necessary for these purposes. Passengers whose documents are in a language other than English should check with their airline or aircraft operator before travel.

Self-tests

International air passengers traveling to the United States can use a self-test (sometimes referred to as home test) that meets the following criteria:

  • The test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test (nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test) with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • The testing procedure must include a telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test that provides real-time supervision remotely through an audio and video connection. Some FDA-authorized self-tests that include a telehealth service may require a prescription.
  • The telehealth provider must confirm the person’s identity, observe the specimen collection and testing procedures, confirm the test result, and issue a report that meets the requirements of CDC’s Order.
  • Airlines and other aircraft operators must be able to review and confirm the person’s identity and the test result details. The passenger must also be able to present the documentation of test results to U.S. officials at the port of entry and local/state health departments if requested.

 

After arriving in the USA

The US has different protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated international arrivals. Quarantine is mandatory only for unvaccinated individuals.

Vaccinated travellers

After travelling to the US, fully vaccinated people must:

  • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel.
    • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements after travel.

Note that travellers are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

If you don’t meet these requirements, you are not considered fully vaccinated and you’ll have to follow the protocol for unvaccinated passengers.

Unvaccinated travellers

After travelling to the US, unvaccinated people must:

  • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel and stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.
    • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
    • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements.

Recovered travellers

If you recovered from a documented COVID-19 infection within the last 3 months, you only need to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. You are exempt from the test on arrival. Isolation is required only if you develop symptoms

However, you must check and adhere to the state and local laws.

 

Flights from India to the US

As India has an air bubble agreement with the USA, flights to New York, Chicago, Washington D.C, Newark, and San Francisco can be booked through the Air India website.

Direct as well connecting flights are available to from India to different cities in the US on American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and other carrier.

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