If you are travelling domestically within the United States right now, or have been in the last few months, you’ve probably noticed that you don’t need to have a Covid-19 test to present to airline authorities before you board the aircraft. Domestic travelling is more lax than international travelling in terms of regulations amid the Covid-19 pandemic. International travellers who are coming to the United States (no matter their point of departure) need to present a negative Covid test to the airline before being able to board their flight.

This rule is currently in effect, and is important for consular immigration applicants because those who have gone through months of filing documentation with the NVC will be very disappointed if they are unable to travel to the United States due to this rule.

CDC Requirements

The CDC has further specifications on the ruling, and states the following on their official website:

            “…you will need to get tested no more than 3 days before you travel by air into the         United States (US) and show your negative result to the airline before you board your   flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery.” (CDC, 2021).

Three days from departure comes down to the day of the week that you received the test. For example, if your flight is on a Friday morning, the latest you should have gotten your Covid test should be Tuesday. The rule does not make any exceptions for those who have gotten their test a week before their flight as the CDC clearly outlines that 3 days is the maximum amount of time per the current order. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: Does a rapid test suffice for international travel purposes?

A: Rapid tests are acceptable as long as they are viral tests acceptable under the Order. 

Q: What happens if I was already positive for Covid-19? Can I still travel internationally?

A: The CDC states that you shouldn’t go and get another test because in the three month period after you initially test positive, you will simply test positive again (even if your symptoms have subsided). At this point, an applicant wishing to travel to the U.S. needs to have documentation of their positive viral test results and a letter from their healthcare provider (doctor) that states they have been cleared for travel.

Q: What kind of documentation will I need to show the airline in order to board if I received my test at the doctors office?

A: You will need to show an official test result via paper or electronic copy. The important part is that you have a lab certified test result.

Q: What happens if my flight is delayed? Do I need to get-retested?

A: This depends. If it is only a few hours delay, there is no need to get re-tested, even if its technically longer than the 3-day rule listed above). However, if the flight is cancelled and re-booked for several days later, a new test will be required.

Overall, it is a good idea for consular processing applicants to add the Covid-19 test to their “checklist” before immigrating to the U.S. If an applicant has a successful visa interview at a U.S. consulate and is approved for travel, the next thing they should worry about is scheduling a Covid test right before their flight. This process usually cannot be waived, unless it is a very limited humanitarian circumstance.

Link per CDC Additional Guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/faqs.html

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COVID-19 Travel CDC