The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Friday that travelers to the U.S. will no longer need to offer proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of their flight in order to enter the country.
The rule, which applies to all travelers, regardless of citizenship, was lifted Sunday at 12:01 a.m.
The CDC said in a statement that “the COVID-19 pandemic has now shifted to a new phase,” due to “the widespread uptake of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines, the availability of effective therapeutics and the accrual of high rates of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity at the population level” that have “contributed to lower risk of severe illness and death across the United States.”
Almost 67 percent of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
The agency added that officials will continue to reassess the need for a testing requirement and will notify the public if the situation changes.
It also “continues to recommend that those travelers boarding a flight to the U.S. get tested for current infection with a viral test as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days) and not travel if they are sick.”
As a growing number of Americans have been taking off for international vacations in recent months, they’ve been contending with the U.S. requirement before boarding their return flights. That has often meant scrambling for viral tests at foreign clinics, then uploading the results to their airline’s websites. (When flights are delayed, travelers are given another 24 hours to use the same test results.) In some cases, travelers have found themselves quarantined in their destinations, at their own expense, after testing positive. (As an alternative to testing, travelers could also offer proof of recent recovery from COVID-19.)
Members of the travel industry, eager to lower any barriers to travel’s economic recovery, have been vigorously lobbying federal officials to drop the requirement. Earlier this month a group of some 260 travel organizations and businesses — including Disney, American Airlines and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — sent a letter to White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha this month that called for the testing rule’s repeal, and insisted, “The wide range of public health tools to effectively manage COVID-19, combined with hospital grade ventilation systems onboard airplanes and the inbound vaccination requirement, have also made international air travel safer than ever.”
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As news of the rule’s repeal broke, the U.S. Travel Association released a statement from CEO Roger Dow that called it “another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States.” Dow added that the repeal “could bring an additional 5.4 million visitors to the U.S. and an additional $9 billion in travel spending through the remainder of 2022.”
Many other countries, including France, Greece and Italy, have dropped their pre-arrival testing requirements for visitors from most destinations. Some (Portugal and Finland, for instance), however, are still only admitting those with proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result.
Christina Ianzito is the travel and books editor for aarp.org and AARP The Magazine, and also edits and writes health, entertainment and other stories for aarp.org. She received a 2020 Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 10, 2022. It's been updated to reflect new information.