New international travel testing rules: What to know

The changes will take effect on Monday, Dec. 6

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that its international travel requirements have changed.

Beginning on Monday, Dec. 6, all air passengers two years and older – regardless of vaccination status or citizenship – will have to show a negative COVID-19 viral test taken no more than one day before travel to the U.S.


"Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is revising the current Global Testing Order to shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States. This revision strengthens already robust protocols in place for international travel, including requirements for foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated," the agency wrote in a release

The CDC said the one-day testing policy would help to protect travelers and American communities alike from COVID-19 – especially as the world learns more about the omicron variant.

"These Orders put in place a stringent and consistent global international travel policy that is guided by public health," the statement continued. 

People travel at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. New travel testing and restrictions have been put in place due to the omicron variant. (Nathan Denette /The Canadian Press via AP)

The CDC continues to recommend that all travelers get a COVID-19 viral test three to five days after arrival and unvaccinated travelers should quarantine for a week after travel.

The new requirements will be effective from any foreign country for air travel to the U.S. departing at or after 12:01 a.m. EST on Monday.

Travelers who can show proof that they have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days are exempt.


"This tighter testing timetable provides an added degree of protection as scientists continue to study the omicron variant," President Biden said last week, during a brief appearance to announce his latest measures against the virus.

These changes come after the U.S. adopted a new set of international travel restrictions in November, requiring all adult foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated before boarding their flight.

Children under 18 did not need to be vaccinated, but were required to take a COVID-19 test and those 2 years old and younger were exempt from testing requirements.

Airlines are required to enforce vaccine rules, and could face fines of up to nearly $35,000 per violation if they don't verify vaccine records and match them against ID. 

They have also been asked to collect contact-tracing information about passengers and there will be CDC workers spot-checking travelers for compliance.


Any COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) will let international travelers in and the U.S. federal mask mandate requires travelers to mask up on airplanes through March 18.

People who refuse to do so may face fines reaching up to $3,000 for repeat offenders, although there are some exemptions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.