Breaking News
More () »

VERIFY: Which COVID test is required for international travel—PCR, Rapid or at-home?

Here's what you need to know about COVID testing for international travel.

WASHINGTON — On Monday, all travelers flying internationally into the United States had to show a negative COVID-19 test result, taken no more than one day prior.

The new CDC rules took effect at 12:01 a.m. EST, just four days after President Biden made the announcement on Thursday.

Previously, international travelers had up to three days before their flight to receive a COVID test. 

"This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of protection as scientists continue to study the Omicron variant," President Biden said at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

We Verified the key takeaways.


Who will now need to get tested before boarding a flight?

According to the CDC, the rule applies to all people flying from overseas—whether you're a U.S. citizen or not, whether you're fully vaccinated or not. It applies to everyone two years old and older.

There is an exception for those who can show proof that they recovered from COVID within the last 90 days, and have a doctor’s note.

"Documentation of Recovery means paper or digital documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the form of a positive SARS-CoV-2 viral test result and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or public health official stating that the person has been cleared for travel (i.e., has recovered)," the order reads. "The viral test must have been conducted on a specimen collected no more than 90 calendar days before the departure of the flight, or at such other intervals as specified in CDC guidance." 

Keep in mind, a previous CDC order requiring that all 'non-U.S. citizen, non-U.S. immigrants' be fully vaccinated to fly into the United States, remains in effect, according to a CDC spokesperson and U.S. Department of State.

RELATED: Should you get a COVID booster vaccine while sick? Here's what experts say

Will a test taken more than one day before your flight count?

This is false.

No. The CDC requires the test to be taken within one calendar day, but not necessarily within a 24-hour period.

"By using a 1-day window, test acceptability does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test sample was taken," the agency says. "For example, if your flight is at 1 pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday."

Are types of PCR, rapid and at-home tests allowed?    

This is true.

Both PCR tests and rapid tests, which are traditionally done in places like pharmacies and doctor's officers, are allowed according to the CDC. As for which kind of test, the CDC says it must be authorized in the country your leaving.

"The test used must be authorized for use by the relevant national authority for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in the country where the test is administered," the CDC says. "A viral test conducted for U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) personnel, including DOD contractors, dependents, and other U.S. government employees, and tested by a DOD laboratory located in a foreign country also meets the requirements of the Order."

Keep in mind, results from PCR tests sometimes take a few days to get back.

As for at-home tests, the answer is also yes, but the rules are a bit more strict; for example, the test must be a nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test authorized by the FDA, and a telehealth doctor from the testing kit company will need to watch you take the test.

The CDC says you should plan ahead if you're thinking of using an at-home test to travel to the U.S.

"Some countries may restrict importation of tests that are not authorized or registered there," the agency writes. "If you are considering bringing a U.S.-authorized test with you for use outside of the United States, contact authorities at your destination for information before you travel."

RELATED: Here's what you need to know about the ingredient added to Pfizer's vaccine for kids


Before You Leave, Check This Out