From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has issued a series of restrictions on entry to the country. The latest restriction, effective January 26, 2021, mandates proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from COVID prior to boarding any flight to the United States. As set forth below, it differs from the existing patchwork of COVID-related travel restrictions, in that it applies to all travelers age two or older–including US citizens and US permanent residents.
The new COVID testing mandate for all international air travelers was ordered by the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC). The CDC’s Order, issued on January 12, 2021, is in response to the identification of a highly-transmissible variant form of the COVID virus. While the CDC Order impacts travel to the United States from abroad, it is a public health measure—not an immigration restriction. This is an important differentiation from the earlier Presidential Proclamations suspending travel. As a public health measure, the CDC’s order applies to all passengers, without consideration of US immigration status or immigration-based exceptions.