Do I need a COVID test? What to know before traveling to the US

TORONTO — On April 1, Canadian officials eased some COVID-19 restrictions at the border and no longer requires inbound travelers to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test of any kind taken prior to entry into Canada.

But for travelers heading south of the border, the US still has several restrictions in effect, including mandatory pre-departure COVID-19 tests for those flying into the country.

Planning on heading down to the States this spring? Here’s what you need to know before crossing the border:

COVID-19 TEST, VACCINE PROOF REQUIREMENTS

All travelers entering the US by air are still required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of travel, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship.

The US accepts the use of rapid antigen tests administered by a lab or health-care provider for entry, although more expensive molecular tests such as PCR tests can also be used. At-home rapid antigen tests can only be used if the test is taken under the supervision of a telehealth provider through an audio and video connection. The test must also be approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration or by the “relevant national authority where the test is administered,” such as Health Canada.

Individuals who have recently recovered from COVID-19 can use their positive test result to enter the US for up to 90 days after their infection. The test result doesn’t have to be from a PCR test and can be from any test that satisfies the US’s entry requirements. Travelers with a positive test result must also have a signed letter from a health-care provider or public health official stating that they’ve been cleared for travel.

Unlike Canada, which requires all travelers to submit their proof of vaccination and other information through the ArriveCAN app, the US does not have a mandatory app for inbound travellers.

For travelers entering the US from Canada or Mexico through land borders crossings or ferry terminals, no COVID-19 tests of any kind are required.

In addition, all non-immigrant and non-US citizen travelers must present proof of being fully vaccinated. All of the vaccines approved for use in Canada are accepted by US authorities. Unvaccinated foreigners are not permitted to enter the US unless they’ve been granted an exemption.

TRAVEL INDUSTRY CALLING FOR FEWER RESTRICTIONS

Leaders in the US travel and tourism industry have been calling on US President Joe Biden’s administration to consider easing some of its health measures at the border, to bring them in line with the looser requirements seen in the UK and the EU.

Last month, the US Travel Association sent an open letter to the White House, requesting the administration remove the pre-entry testing requirement for all fully vaccinated travelers.

“Removing the pre-departure testing requirement will incentivize vaccination, increase demand for international travel to and from the US, and better align passenger aviation entry requirements with those at US land border points of entry and other major travel-trade partners abroad,” the letter states.

The Biden administration last month also extended its mask mandate on airplanes through April 18. The US Travel Association is asking the White House to let the mandate expire.

During a press briefing last Wednesday, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said “conversations are underway” when asked whether the White House is prepared to ease travel restrictions.

“Certainly, when we have news to make on this, we’ll come back to you,” she told reporters.

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