When will the USA end its ‘Europe Ban’ and the other international travel policies keeping visitors from entering the country? In December we heard it was imminent, but that’s now come and passed. There’s one new notable piece of news though: all travelers entering the USA will soon need a negative covid-19 test before flight, or be denied boarding.

The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) lead travel policy will require all international arrivals, including returning US citizens and visa holders to obtain a covid-19 test prior to departure from their international gateway, according to WSJ.

And yes, that includes travel from US vacation favorite, Mexico, which saw nearly 1 million Americans over the December holiday and New Years celebrations, despite mass warnings to postpone trips. Wait for it – in Cancun and Quintana Roo alone.

USA To Require Covid-19 Testing

According to officials briefed on the matter, The United States of America will require a covid-19 test for all international arrivals, even those from nearby Canada and Mexico, effective January 26th, 2021.

If you’ll be arriving or returning to the United States from this date forward, you’ll need a negative covid-19 test to board a flight. Without one, you’ll be denied check in. It’s expected that the cost of testing will remain with the passenger, though it’s unclear which types of test will be accepted.

Recent US requirements for UK travelers entering the country specify a NAAT/PCR test is necessary. These tests are typically more accurate, but also more expensive and time consuming to receive results.

Current travel bans still apply, but the news could be a strong sign that the United States is preparing to roll back the bans which are based on region or origin, in favor of the science based approach pre-flight testing brings. In other words, it could end the Europe ban overnight, though there’s been no specific indication.

The policy comes amid a presidential transition, where Joseph Biden will become the 46th President Of the United States. The United States remains among the countries with the highest covid-19 case rates, and leads the worlds in the horrific figure of total deaths due to the global pandemic.

Although travelers coming from abroad likely pose less statistical risk than those already in the country, given infection rates, a layer of testing for all travelers – even returning US citizens – helps to create a layer of control to the situation, mitigating some of the risks around new strain importation.

Higher Costs And More Hassle

Covid-19 testing abroad, particularly in remote locations isn’t always easy, and always comes at an additional expense, which authorities may hope will further discourage unnecessary travel for the immediate future.

Most destinations, including Hawaii, Bahamas, The Maldives and Brazil require a negative covid-19 test prior to travel which mean testing on both sides, at a cost of around $100 per person each way, or more.

Tourism dependent countries initiated pre-flight covid-19 testing in the spring of 2020 in an effort to reboot travel while minimizing safety risks and resources. Taking a pre-flight test is not a one stop solution, but provides a barrier which creates odds of circa 1:1,000 that a person can receive a negative covid-19 test, and still carry the virus into the country, according to real world studies.

Despite the relative success of such programs, the United Kingdom, and now the USA only just announced similar science based moves. The UK policy goes into effect on Wednesday, January 13th, 2021, and the US will follow just over 10 days later. We’ll update this news story as full announcements are released from the CDC.

Finding travel restrictions confusing? Read up on the latest travel entry restrictions with our ‘can I travel there?’ resource.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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7 Comments

  1. You are right the US have bad numbers.
    Belgium is 0.15% of the world population and they have 1% of global death. That is not better, that is all I am saying 😉

  2. Testing negative, wearing mask and keeping distance. We are all ready to that so as ready to flying responsibly again

  3. I’m not saying the pandemic isn’t real but testing within 72 hours in the US and especially places like Mexico is going to be a logistical let alone costly nightmare. Who wants to book a trip and take a risk of not being able to get a test while out of the US in time to return?
    Trump wanted to build a wall to keep out criminals and illegals, now the CDC and Dems want to build a wall to keep in, and out, it’s own citizens. Welcome to the new world. Last night watching the old TV show The Prisoner gave me a glimpse of what this country and the world is soon to become.

    1. It’s going to be a sad state of affairs for the travel industry! Americans HAVE to pay more money to get tested to go to certain countries AND to return to the US, just to prove negative tests. Also, it’s going to be a challenge for many Americans who want to travel where ever to find places to get tested. I fear a black market of having negative test is going to EXPLODE, so Americans can do international travel without little to no hassle. I HATE government involvement as it THINKS its keeping people safe by requesting this for Americans. All it does is mess everything up!

    2. Oh boo hoo. Till you Americans realise that freedom comes with responsibilities you will keep going through this. If that orange skinned dictator had chosen to follow the science instead of his bigly brain, and if he hadnt riled up his jackbooted thugs against mask mandates and lockdowns, the USA wouldnt be in this horrendous situation.
      Ive met my parents once in the last 10 months because I have been working and going out since lockdown started in my city. Its not that I dont miss them. But I need to ensure they are taken care of.

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