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Updated November 2021

While the severity of COVID cases has reduced over the year, the pandemic is still far from being over. COVID testing has thus become the norm worldwide to enable safe travelling. America is finally open for vaccinated tourists, but the country has mandated strict testing measures across its borders to ensure that the virus spread is under control. 

The US requires a negative PCR COVID-19 test for all incoming international travelers, including US citizens. Here are the latest PCR test entry requirements in the US that you should be aware of.

PCR testing requirements in the US

All air passengers, 2 years or older, travelling to the US, regardless of vaccination or antibody status, must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test result or documentation of recovery unless exempted.

  1. For fully vaccinated travellers, the test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 3 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country if they show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
  2. For partially vaccinated travellers, the test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 1 day before the flight’s departure from a foreign country if they do not show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Test specifications

Passengers must be tested with a viral test that could be either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Rapid tests are also acceptable as long as they are viral tests. This includes:

  • 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 result must be written documentation, either on printed paper or as an electronic copy. It must be authorized for use by the relevant national authority to detect SARS-CoV-2 in the country where the test is administered.  

What about testing at the airport?

At present, there is no COVID screening required at US airports. You will need to get a COVID-19 viral test before travelling and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.

Testing in quarantine

 If you are fully vaccinated, you need not quarantine, but you should:

  • 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.

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated 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.

Exemptions

Children under the age of 2 are exempted from submitting a negative PCR test result. 

If you recovered from a documented COVID-19 infection within the past 90 days (regardless of vaccination status)you do not need to get a test 3-5 days after travel.