New U.S. COVID-19 Restrictions to Begin on January 26, 2021

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

Key Points

  • New COVID-19 travel restrictions will apply to all air travelers to the U.S. on January 26, 2021
  • All inbound travelers must present negative COVID-19 test results prior to their departure
  • Airlines must verify negative test results prior to departure
  • Travelers who do not have a negative COVID-19 test may be banned from flying
  • Additional travel restrictions may apply based on presidential proclamations in effect at the time of travel
  • The upcoming COVID-19 travel restrictions follow an earlier ban on travel from the UK


In response to a rising number of COVID-19 cases worldwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Order on January 12, 2021 requiring all inbound travelers to the U.S. to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. This Order will be effective on January 26, 2021 and published in the Federal Register soon.

What are the Changes?

Effective January 26, 2021, the CDC issued an Order requiring all air passengers entering the U.S. to provide proof of either 1) a negative COVID-19 test, or 2) documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. The government will require all incoming travelers to present negative COVID-19 test results before entering the country. Tests must be taken within 72 hours of departure. Airlines are required to confirm passengers’ negative test results before allowing them to board. Passengers who do not provide negative test results may be prohibited from boarding.

Travelers returning to the U.S. should note that additional travel restrictions based on presidential proclamations remain fluid at this time due to COVID-19 and the transition of administrations. We expect to have more clarity on U.S. travel restrictions once the new administration takes office. To understand whether any additional travel restrictions or visa suspensions apply to you, we strongly recommend that you reach out to your attorney at Global Immigration Associates.

Looking Ahead

The U.S. State Department is following requirements from the CDC for COVID-19 travel restrictions. Additional travel restrictions may be implemented by the incoming administration. Adjustments and updates will be issued as necessary. For additional information and specific guidance, please reach out to the GIA Legal Team.

Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Myra Mahmud, who is a Senior Associate at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (, Envoy’s affiliated law firm.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.