New COVID Testing Rules For International Air Travel into U.S. Effective Today: What To Know.

by Carolee Chanona

The United States will require all travelers entering the country, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, to test negative for COVID-19 within one day of departure starting at 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday, December 6. Amidst a heavy air travel season and threats of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is shortening the testing window all international air travelers have to take a pre-departure coronavirus test from three days to one day. Previously, only unvaccinated travelers had to take a test no more than one day before travel. The first official case of Omicron in the U.S. was recently discovered in California and, so far, the variant has already been reported in over 20 countries. Here’s what to know about the United States’ new testing rules for international air travel.

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Testing for COVID-19. Photo via Caring Hands Clinic

When do the new rules go into effect & who has to test?

The new rules go into effect Monday at 12:01 a.m. EST and affect all air passengers 2 years and older flying into the U.S. from a foreign county, regardless of vaccination status or nationality. Travelers who can show proof that they have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days are exempt.

Why is the order one day and not 24 hours?

The one-day period offers more flexibility than a 24-hour time limit and allows travelers to take a test any time the day before departure. For example, travelers with a 5 p.m. flight on a Friday can board with a negative test taken at 8 a.m. on Thursday.

Where can I get tested in Belize?

Clinics are available countrywide, including inside the Philip Goldson International Airport. Tests must be a viral test, which includes antigen tests and nucleic acid amplification tests; one company offering widespread testing options is Caring Hands Clinic, with multiple branches available in San Pedro, Placencia, Hopkins, Dangriga, San Ignacio, and Belize City.

Do I need to wear a mask on the plane?

Yes. The federal mask mandate, which requires travelers to mask up on airplanes, trains, buses, and in airports and train stations, was extended through March 18. Exemptions for travelers under the age of 2 and people with certain disabilities remain.

Do I need to be vaccinated to fly into the U.S.?

Yes. Anyone who is a non-U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the U.S. on an immigrant visa, must be fully vaccinated with an approved shot to travel internationally by air into the United States.

You are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the second shot of a two-dose vaccine and two weeks after your shot of a one-dose vaccine.

What vaccines are accepted for entry to the U.S? 

Only certain vaccines are accepted for entry into the U.S. These are:

  • AstraZeneca
  • BIBP/Sinopharm
  • Covaxin
  • Covishield
  • Janssen/Johnson & Johnson
  • Moderna
  • Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Sinovac

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