** LEGAL UPDATE **
In 2021, responding to the ongoing health crisis presented by the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of new variants around the world, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered most international airline passengers to present a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a U.S.-bound flight. However, in June of 2022, the CDC lifted that rule.
By way of reminder, and in case the rule is reimposed, the below text will describe what the original rule said.
Who was affected by the recently cancelled CDC order: The order applied to all air passengers ages two or older who were flying into the U.S., whether it was their final destination or just a connecting stop. It applied to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent or conditional residents (green card holders). It applied regardless of whether the travelers have been vaccinated against COVID-19. This is on top of the COVID-19 travel bans already in place via Presidential Proclamation; the CDC order did not offer a way around them.
The order didn't mention ship or cruise travel, but the CDC separately addressed these, for example in its No Sail order for cruise ships subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
What types of flights were included in the CDC order: One couldn't avoid the issue by flying a private jet! The CDC order covered commercial flights, private flights, and charter flights. Solely domestic air passengers, however, didn't need to supply test results. That included people coming from U.S. territories and possessions, including American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Their flights were considered domestic.
What type of test results travelers needed to supply: Affected airline passengers needed to take what's called a viral detection test for current COVID-19 infection (a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test/NAAT, or a viral antigen test) within three calendar days of boarding their initial flight. That could be tricky if one's flight involved long hours and numerous connections. The order required that layovers last no more than 24 hours. Thus there was an unfortunate possibility that flight delays would cause travelers to have to retake the test to meet the three-day requirement.
Travelers needed to show written proof (paper or electronic) of negative COVID-19 test results before boarding. Those who'd recovered from COVID-19 could present written confirmation (paper or electronic) of this along with a Documentation of Recovery from a licensed health care provider or public health official that cleared them for travel.
All documents needed to show the traveler's name and date of birth as it appeared on the person's passport, green card, or other travel documents.
Who would review the test results: Travelers needed to present the required documents to the airline operators as well as to any U.S. federal or state official who requested it.
How long the CDC order was be in effect: It began on January 26, 2021 and ended June 11, 2021.
Effective Date: June 13, 2022