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UPDATE: May 12, 2021
Great news! United and Abbott today announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration to use Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Home Test and Abbott’s NAVICA app to help make the international travel experience more seamless.

This is all thanks to the CDC recently updating its guidelines to permit travelers to self-administer a rapid antigen test under the real-time supervision of a telehealth service and use the verified negative test result to board an international flight to the U.S. if they test negative. The tests take 15 minutes and can be completed anytime, anywhere.

United customers can depart the United States with the BinaxNOW Home Test in their carry-on bag and administer the test via the eMed digital health platform while overseas, avoiding the need to find a testing center abroad. United is the only airline to offer end-to-end integration between a digital platform and a testing app with the integration between the United Travel Ready Center platform and Abbott’s NAVICA app, which provides a seamless passenger experience when departing and re-entering the United States.

But it doesn’t matter which airline you fly, you can still use Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Home Test and they’re available for $23.99 at both CVS and Walgreens (FREE Same Day Delivery on Orders $25+ w/ code SAMEDAY) Note: They come with two tests but once you take the first test, the second one needs to be taken 36 hours apart.

Walgreens: COVID-19 Antigen Self Test Kit
CVS: Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test (2 tests for serial testing)

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Good news for international travelers! The CDC just announced that international air passengers traveling to the United States can use a self-test (home test). There are certain criteria that need to be met so read carefully:

According to the CDC website, which was updated on May 7, 2021:

International air passengers traveling to the United States can use a self-test (sometimes referred to as home test) that meets the following criteria:

  • The test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test (nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test) with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • The testing procedure must include a telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test that provides real-time supervision remotely through an audio and video connection. Some FDA-authorized self-tests that include a telehealth service may require a prescription.
  • The telehealth provider must confirm the person’s identity, observe the specimen collection and testing procedures, confirm the test result, and issue a report that meets the requirements of CDC’s Order (see “What information must be included in the test result?” below).
  • Airlines and other aircraft operators must be able to review and confirm the person’s identity and the test result details. The passenger must also be able to present the documentation of test results to U.S. officials at the port of entry and local/state health departments, if requested.”

This is a very important warning from the CDC. “Some countries may restrict importation of tests that are not authorized or registered there. Travelers who are considering bringing a U.S.-authorized test with them for use outside of the United States should contact authorities at their destination for information before they travel.”

What information must be included on the test result?
A test result must be in the form of written documentation (paper or electronic copy). The documentation must include:

  1. Type of test (indicating it is a NAAT or antigen test)
  2. Entity issuing the result (e.g. laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service)
  3. Specimen collection date. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected within the 3 days before the flight. A positive test result for documentation of recovery from COVID-19 must show the specimen was collected within the 3 months before the flight.
  4. Information that identifies the person (full name plus at least one other identifier such as date of birth or passport number)
  5. Test Result

Does a negative test result or documentation of recovery need to be in English?
Airlines and other aircraft operators must be able to confirm the test result and review other required information, and should determine when translation is necessary for these purposes. Passengers whose documents are in a language other than English should check with their airline or aircraft operator before travel.

I’ve written multiple times that I think this will be yet another year of domestic travel for a number of reasons including:

-The USA is doing much better than most countries in terms of vaccination.
-To enter the USA, everyone, including Americans and vaccinated travelers, will have to prove a negative COVID-19 test result. Per the CDC, “All air passengers arriving to the US from a foreign country to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to present the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight.”
-The tests can be expensive.
-If you test positive abroad, you will have to quarantine at your own expense (unless you have the right travel insurance or pick a resort that will quarantine you for free) and will not be allowed onto the plane unless you meet certain criteria so it could take several days, if not weeks, to get home. Straight from the CDC website: “For travelers who test positive, CDC recommends the telehealth provider report positive test results to relevant public health authorities in the traveler’s location following local requirements. The telehealth provider should also counsel the traveler on what they and their close contacts should do. This would include not traveling until they complete isolation (if infected) or quarantine (if exposed), in accordance with local requirements.”

My final reason was that it’s not always easy to find a test site and get the results back in time. This last reason should be alleviated thanks to this news.

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9 Comments On "CDC Announces Use of At-Home COVID-19 Tests for International Travelers"
  1. Dougie|

    $99 for the empower home test kit! Wow, that is pricey. I know for certain that getting a test in Colombia that meets the CDC requiremnt for returning to the USA is easy to obtain and signifcantly less costly. But going to Colombia right now is out of the question with the Brazilian variant spreading like wildfire, not to mention the civil unrest. Hoping that my late August arrival will pan out!

    1. Johnny Jet|

      According to their PR person “our tests are free with most insurance”

  2. Sue|

    How does this help fulfill the returning to the usa criteria when You are in an another country when you are supposed to ship it to their lab? Which I would assume is in the USA. The information on Amazon notes you ship the test to their lab. I can see pre flight test for leaving the USA, but not how it works for returning.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Sorry! You are right. The PR person gave me the wrong info. They now say “You are correct, our at-home PCR tests are best for pre-travel. Most countries only require an antigen for return to the U.S. so you can get immediate results. And at the moment, we only work with labs in the U.S.”

  3. Noreen|

    You have to send your sample to the U.S. lab? If so it’ll take 2 days to get there then process it so even a 24hr turn around is to late.

    What am I missing that this is of any real use, just platitudes by the CDC ?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Sorry! The PR person gave me the wrong info. They now say “You are correct, our at-home PCR tests are best for pre-travel. Most countries only require an antigen for return to the U.S. so you can get immediate results. And at the moment, we only work with labs in the U.S.”

  4. Marcie|

    There’s so much bad and conflicting information out there right now without you adding to it. Those of us that are getting out there and traveling depend on good information. We expect better!

  5. Penni|

    Do you know if the Abbot Home test can be used in Iceland for a Delta flight back to the US?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I believe so but I would check with Iceland to confirm. Things are changing constantly

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