Quick Takeaways

  • As of January 26, 2021, all passengers on international flights to the United States must show a negative viral test for COVID-19.
  • Requirement applies to all passengers, even U.S. Citizens, and as of right now proof of vaccination is not a substitute.
  • Viral test must be taken within 72 hours of travel.
  • Post-arrival self-quarantine also suggested.
  • No testing requirements required at this time for travelers entering the United States at land crossings or by sea.

Consistent with CDC guidelines published two weeks ago, and in the midst of heightened restrictions as new strains of the virus reach U.S. shores, as of January 26, 2021 all travelers ages 2 and older flying to the United States from abroad must present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flights. The test must be a viral test that detects current infection, such as a nucleic acid amplification test (“NAAT”) or antigen test. In the alternative, the CDC guidelines permit travelers to present proof that they contracted and recovered from the disease within the past three months.

President Biden’s Executive Order from January 21 confirms the Administration’s endorsement of this requirement for all air travel to the United States. Moreover, this Order stipulates that within two (2) weeks, there may be updates on the following topics, amongst others:

  1. Whether there will be testing requirements for travelers arriving in the United States via land crossings and/or sea ports;
  2. Whether proof of vaccination will excuse a traveler from producing a negative test;
  3. Potential protocols for immediate testing before departure; and
  4. Alternatives to this requirement for travelers coming from countries/regions without widespread access to testing.

The Biden Administration has been active with respect to immigration during its first seven days in office, and we expect more Executive Orders and potential legislation in the coming weeks. To keep up with all updates, we strongly suggest you sign-up for our E-Alerts. And of course, if you have any questions concerning how an action directly impacts your situation, we are always on the ready to assist.


  • Jonathan Grode serves as the U.S. Practice Director and Managing Partner for the Firm.

  • Josh Rolf is a Senior Associate Attorney in the Firm’s Philadelphia office. Josh focuses his practice on various types of immigrant and nonimmigrant matters, including investor-based petitions.

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