Updated COVID testing requirements for “official travel” to United States

An Army officer assigned to U.S. Army Europe and Africa in Wiesbaden, undergoes a COVID test recently. The CDC has issued updated guidance for COVID testing requirements for military personnel who are on official travel orders departing for the United States from Europe. Courtesy photo

As you may have seen in the news, a new COVID testing requirement for inbound air travel to the U.S. went into effect on Dec. 6 requiring all air travelers to receive a negative COVID test no more than one-day prior to departure for the U.S.

However, the CDC recently updated their guidance, and U.S. military personnel, civilian employees, dependents, contractors, and other U.S. government employees are exempt from the new one-day testing requirement of the original CDC Order if they are traveling on official military travel orders.

This exemption applies to persons on official military orders on U.S. military flights (including whole aircraft contract charter operators) and non-U.S. military flights (e.g., commercial flights).  As such, these individuals are exempt from the one-day testing requirement and are, thereby, allowed to conduct their COVID tests 72 hours (three days) prior to their departure from Europe, accordance with DoD Force Health Protection Guidance Supplement 20, dated April 12, 2021.

The CDC recommends that individuals on official travel carry their applicable travel orders with them to present to air carrier/operator personnel or public health authorities.

It should be noted, the one-day testing exemption only applies to U.S.-based carriers. Those individuals not traveling on official orders, remain subject to CDC’s one-day testing requirements.

If the local MTF is unable to meet official travel testing needs, official travelers should seek testing off-post or at international airports. Due to recent changes made to the Joint Travel Regulation, COVID tests for official travel are now a reimbursable expense.

Individuals should check with their local medical treatment facility for information about COVID testing services and capabilities for official travel purposes.