On December 25, 2020, in an effort to mitigate the potential spread of a new variant of the coronavirus that has been found in the U.K., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order requiring proof of a pre-departure, negative COVID-19 test result for all airline passengers — including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents — traveling from the U.K. to the U.S. The test must be a viral test that was conducted on a specimen collected during the three calendar days preceding the flight’s departure (Qualifying Test). The order is effective as of December 27, 2020, at 7:01 p.m. ET.
Requirements for Airlines
Any airline operating aircraft with passengers arriving into the U.S. from the U.K. must meet the following requirements for each passenger on board:
- Verify that each passenger has attested to having received a negative Qualifying Test result. Airlines must retain a copy of each passenger attestation for two years.
- Confirm that each passenger aged 2 years or older has documentation of a negative Qualifying Test result.
- Not board any passenger without verifying the attestation and confirming the documentation as set forth in Items 1 and 2 above.
Any airline that fails to comply with the “Requirements for Airlines” may be subject to criminal penalties, including substantial fines and imprisonment.
Requirements for Passengers
Any passenger departing the U.K. with a final destination in the U.S. shall:
- Provide an attestation to the CDC, through the airline, of having received a negative Qualifying Test result. A parent or legal guardian must attest on behalf of a passenger aged 2 to 17 years. An authorized individual may attest on behalf of any passenger who is unable to attest on their own behalf (e.g., by reason of physical or mental impairment).
- Retain a copy of the negative Qualifying Test result in their possession and present it for inspection to the airline and upon request by agent of the U.S. government or a cooperating state or local public health authority.
Any passenger who fails to comply with the “Requirements for Passengers” may be subject to criminal penalties, including substantial fines and imprisonment.
Individuals who are exempt from the CDC’s order are:
- Airline crew members, provided that they follow industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19 as set forth in relevant Safety Alerts for Operators (SAFOs) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
- Passengers who originate on flights outside of the U.K. but connect through an airport in the U.K. on a transit flight with a connection time of no more than 24 hours.
The CDC has issued an FAQ that addresses common questions individuals may have concerning this new order. Of significance is that Presidential Proclamation 9996 — which precludes entry to the U.S. (with specific exceptions) by foreign nationals who have been in the U.K. during the immediately preceding 14-day period — remains in effect.
As the number of cases around the world grows, Faegre Drinker’s Coronavirus Resource Center is available to help you understand and assess the legal, regulatory and commercial implications of COVID-19.