After more than one and a half years, arriving airline passengers no longer need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the United States.
The original rule, which was implemented in January 2021 in an effort to lower transmission rates and COVID-19 cases, was lifted at the beginning of June 2022, much to the delight of many travelers around the world.
Despite the overturning of this rule, travelers still need to have the proper paperwork in order to enter the USA, such as an ESTA or other travel authorization. This article will take an in-depth look into the current entry requirements, domestic COVID-19 restrictions, and other helpful tips for planning a trip to the United States.
No More COVID-19 Tests: Current Entry Requirements for the USA
The US CDC (officially known as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) shocked travelers when it stated that as of June 12, 2022, all arriving airline passengers no longer needed a COVID-19 test upon entry to the USA.
Indeed, travelers do not need to undergo any testing in order to be granted entry to the United States on arrival, and long gone are the days of searching for a laboratory for a departure PCR or antigen test.
However, the CDC has the authority to reassess and enact the testing requirement if the pandemic evolves and/or if there is a new variant of concern.
Despite the overturn, there are still a few entry requirements for arrivals. First, all incoming foreign travelers (‘noncitizen nonimmigrants’) must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a proof of exemption.
The list of accepted vaccines includes Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), Convidecia (CanSinoBIO), Pfizer (BioNTech), Moderna (Spikevax), AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria), Covaxin, Covishield, Sinopharm (BIBP), Sinova, Novavax, and Covovax.
Likewise, travelers are exempted from the vaccination requirement if they have proof of recovery (in the form of a positive COVID-19 test and a signed letter from a healthcare provider) or if the traveler is a child under 17 years of age.
The second requirement for entry is to have a valid travel document, whether that’s a traditional visa, an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), or another entry permit. US citizens and permanent residents may use their passports or green card in order to enter.
Domestic Coronavirus Restrictions in the United States
Once travelers have successfully entered the United States, they should keep the following domestic restrictions in mind when enjoying their holiday.
First, there are still mask mandates in various parts of the country. Unfortunately, there is no definite and overarching rule, as each state and region has its own requirements.
For example, Alameda County (California) enacted an indoor mask mandate at the beginning of June 2022 in response to a shocking rise in new cases. After three weeks of monitoring the situation — and a fall in cases — the county officials have officially dropped the requirement.
Travelers who are planning to visit multiple destinations in the United States can learn more about each state’s mask policies by visiting the local tourism board or checking each city individually.
Likewise, many bars, restaurants, cafes, malls, and other establishments clearly note their mask policy outside of the entrance, which makes it easier for visitors to figure out if they need a mask or not. However, it’s a good idea to carry a mask or two in your purse or pocket, just in case.
Most localities have dropped mask requirements in terms of public transportation, but it is best to double-check before going onboard.
As of April 2022, masks are no longer required on domestic flights across the United States, yet the CDC still recommends it as a way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
An Alaska Airlines representative noted that “Face masks have been like boarding passes for nearly two years — you couldn’t fly without one… Due to a judicial decision in our federal court system, the mask mandate has been overturned, which means our guests and employees have the option to wear a mask while traveling in the U.S. and at work.”
Although mask mandates are no longer in place, many establishments still follow basic safety and hygiene rules. Visitors are typically greeted with a bottle of hand sanitizer at the entrance, more places are taking contactless payments, and there are still plastic dividers between cashiers and guests.
Many tourist attractions, like theme parks, museums, and zoos, have introduced timed tickets in order to spread out visitors and control the amount of crowds. Best of all, these tickets can be reserved online and are an excellent way to organize and plan each day of your vacation.
By keeping these rules in mind, paying attention to the mask mandate rules, and planning your itinerary in advance, travelers can enjoy a fun and stress-free trip to the United States this year.