New U.S. COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an order requiring airline passengers intending to arrive in the United States, including U.S. citizens and LPRs, to provide documentation that they do not have COVID-19. This order will be effective beginning January 26, 2021.
Specifically, the order requires passengers to provide a negative COVID-19 viral test result issued within 3 calendar days prior to a direct flight’s departure. For connecting flights, the result of the test must be issued within 3 calendar days from the initial flight’s departure and (1) the connecting flights must be booked as a single passenger record, (2) each connection must be no longer than 24 hours, and (3) passengers must comply with safety protocols during connections.
Individuals who test positive on a COVID-19 viral test may subsequently travel with a signed letter from a healthcare professional stating that the passenger is clear to travel after recovery.
Additionally, all travelers will be required to complete an attestation that they have received a qualifying negative test or that they have a doctor’s clearance to travel. Failure to comply can be criminally punishable.
Exceptions to the testing requirement exist, including children under 2 years of age, certain airline and law enforcement personnel, as well as individuals who receive specific waivers from CDC.
This order will expire automatically on December 31, 2021 or earlier if it is affirmatively rescinded.
In reviewing this order, it appears to be an expansion of the earlier order issued December 25, 2020 requiring COVID-19 tests for travelers from the UK. The purpose of these orders is to reduce the spread of new strains of COVID-19 that are emerging worldwide. Currently, these requirements are in addition to the existing U.S. COVID-19 travel ban which applies to persons physically present in specific countries (Schengen area, UK, Ireland, China, Iran, or Brazil) during the 14 days prior to arriving in the U.S. Travelers from these restricted countries may also need to obtain a National Interest Exception prior to travel.
As with previous travel bans, the implementation of these orders by the immigration agencies may result in practical changes and/or additional requirements. Likewise, with the coming change in presidential administration, on January 20, 2021, it is possible that these policies may be further modified. Gee & Zhang LLP is closely monitoring the situation and we recommend conferring with our firm prior to any international travel.