Effective 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, most air travelers from the People’s Republic of China coming to the United States (directly or indirectly) will have to present proof of a negative test for COVID-19 before being allowed to board their flights. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the testing requirement is being reinstated because of “the surge in COVID-19 cases in the PRC” and also because of a lack of adequate scientific data about the surge.

The specifics of the CDC announcement are as follows:

  • A negative COVID test, or documentation of recovery from COVID (in the circumstances defined below), will be required for all air passengers two years old and older (regardless of nationality and vaccination status) who are boarding flights to the United States from the PRC, its Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong, and Macau.
  • This testing requirement applies not only to direct flights to the United States originating from the PRC, but also “to persons traveling from the PRC via third-country transit and passengers connecting through the United States onward to further destinations.”
  • The requirement has been extended to flights into the United States from three transit hubs outside the PRC that handle “the overwhelming majority of passengers with travel originating in the PRC and the Special Administrative Regions.” The hubs are Incheon International Airport in Seoul, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport. Travelers from these airports “will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test” taken no earlier than two days before departure if they have been in the PRC at any time during the 10 days before departure.
  • The COVID test (such as a PCR or antigen self-test) must be “administered and monitored by a telehealth service or licensed provider and authorized by the [U.S.] Food and Drug Administration or the relevant national authority.”
  • Documentation of recovery from COVID, in lieu of a negative test, can be provided by passengers who tested positive more than 10 days before their flights.

Airlines are responsible for confirming the negative test result or documentation of recovery for all passengers before they board the flights.

In addition to this limited reinstatement of the COVID testing requirement, all foreign nationals traveling by air to the United States (other than lawful permanent residents of the United States) must provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Limited exceptions apply.

U.S. suspends or cancels visa appointments and most consular services in PRC

In addition to the testing requirement, the U.S. Mission (Embassy and Consulates) in the PRC recently announced that it is cancelling or suspending all regularly scheduled visa appointments at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the other Consulates General. That obviously will cause significant hardship and delays for immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants in the PRC and will prevent employment visa applicants from starting or continuing their employment in the United States.

One possible option for applicants from the PRC is to determine whether they can file for a visa at a different U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or to transfer their pending applications. According to the U.S. Department of State, “any visa applicant who can travel to another embassy or consulate with shorter wait times [should] consider doing so. There is no penalty for applying anywhere appointments are available, even outside your home country.”

However, applicants must understand that only the Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s home country is required to exercise jurisdiction over a visa application. Thus, there are no guarantees. Still, this option should be considered along with the need for Chinese nationals to obtain a visa to travel to many countries for a visa interview.

We will monitor any developments on these topics and provide any needed updates.

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