On Wednesday Dec. 28, 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new COVID-19 testing requirement for air passengers traveling from China to the United States. Specifically, the CDC will require all air passengers aged two and older traveling on flights from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, or Macau to the United States to produce a negative COVID-19 test or provide evidence of recovery from COVID-19, effective Jan. 5, 2023 at 12:01 a.m. EST. Impacted passengers may use a PCR test or antigen self-test “administered and monitored by a telehealth service or a licensed provider and authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or the relevant national authority.”[1] The test must be taken no more than 48 hours prior to departure and must show a negative result. The new requirement will apply to all passengers, regardless of nationality and vaccination status, as well as to travelers traveling from China via third country transit and to those connecting through the United States to other final destinations. Additionally, passengers transiting from “Incheon International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport on their way to the United States will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test” no more than two days before their departure to the United States if they have been to China within 10 days of their departure.[2] Travelers who have tested positive for COVID-19 more than 10 days before their flight can provide documentary evidence of their recovery in lieu of a negative test result. The CDC’s new requirement will be carried out by airlines which will confirm either a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of recovery before allowing passengers to board their flights.

The CDC’s new requirement comes as the Biden Administration continues assessing spikes in COVID-19 cases across China in the aftermath of easing its strict zero-COVID policies on Dec. 7, 2022. Those measures followed mass protests by Chinese residents against those policies in November 2022.[3] Officially, the CDC has cited China’s lack of transparency in sharing vital COVID-19 data, which could delay the identification of new variants and a lack of case reporting as the impetus for enacting this testing requirement. It is the CDC’s hope that the new requirement will help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. The CDC has also stated that they will continue to monitor the situation and adjust their policies as necessary.[4] After today’s announcement, it is clear that even as the United States reduces COVID-19 health protection measures domestically over two years into the pandemic, COVID-19 may well continue to impact international travel to the United States, making immigration more difficult. Therefore, both employers and personal travelers now have an additional hurdle to consider when planning to enter the United States from China or its Special Administrative Regions.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/p1228-COVID-china.html

[2] Id.

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2022/12/28/u-s-to-require-covid-tests-for-travelers-coming-from-china-00075693

[4] Supra note 1.