CDC to Require Negative COVID Test from All Inbound Passengers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 for all air passengers, including U.S. citizens, arriving from a foreign country. The order, which becomes effective on Tuesday, January 26, builds on an existing one put in place in December for inbound passengers from the United Kingdom.

All inbound passengers, regardless of citizenship status, must get tested no more than 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs. The test must be a viral test (NAAT or antigen test). If the passenger has tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months, they do not have get tested again but can travel instead with documentation of their positive viral test results and a letter from their healthcare provider or a public health official that states they have been cleared for travel.

It is the responsibility of the airline to confirm a COVID-19 negative test result or documentation of recovery for all passengers before boarding, and to deny boarding if such is not presented. Passengers must also fill out a CDC attestation form. The test result must be in the form of written documentation (paper or electronic copy) of a laboratory test, and must include information that identifies the person, a specimen collection date and the type of test administered, as well as verification information, such as the name and contact information for the laboratory that performed the test.

Upon arrival in the U.S. CDC recommends, but doesn’t require, that travelers get retested 3-5 days after travel AND stay home or otherwise self-quarantine for 7 days after travel. Note that your state may have more stringent requirements for returning travelers.


What is your River Oaks Travel concierge team doing?

As your personal travel concierge team, we are here to help navigate the ever-changing restrictions and advise you of necessary steps before travel. While this news was announced late January 12, we have already started working closely with our hotel partners to secure in-destination testing options. All of our hotel and tour operators have been testing their own personnel regularly and are taking the necessary steps to conveniently offer testing on-property.

We will continue to share updates related to these rules, including the steps destinations and suppliers are taking to mitigate the impact of the testing requirement. If you haven’t subscribed to our newsletter, ask your advisor or email to get on the list.


Most airlines are waiving change fees to provide added flexibility in travel. In light of this news, United will waive the fare difference for customers rebooking international tickets originally purchased on or before January 12, 2021, for scheduled travel to the U.S. through February 15, 2021. If you have a flight booked for upcoming travel, your advisor will be in touch shortly with options.


Our hotel partners in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Costa Rica have already been coordinating COVID testing for concerned travelers prior to the CDC announcement. Our travel agency is working closely with management and tourism boards as they implement procedures for the mandatory tests. Wherever possible, these will be done on-site to minimize interruption to your vacation.

Travel Insurance

Our River Oaks Travel Concierge team highly recommends purchasing travel insurance for coverage pre-departure and during your vacation. Ask your travel advisor for more information and to obtain a quote.

Your travel concierge during COVID-19

Now more than ever, you should be working with a personal travel advisor for planning your trips. Travel in 2021 and beyond has become more complicated in many respects, and the Modern Traveler more than ever needs a Concierge to handle the before, during and after travel planning and logistics.

Our Travel Concierge assistance fully encompassess and considers new and changing travel protocols and mandates, as it is no longer sufficient to intimately know the destination alone. The Modern Traveler must be prepared for an array of new and varied travel requirements – from required COVID-19 medical testing and paperwork and where to get it, to special and unique requirements for specific destinations. 

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