New US Rule for China Arrivals

By Chris Shieff


There’s mixed news from China.

On the one hand, it is finally about to get rid of quarantine on arrival. On the other, Covid is surging badly. Which means that nations around the world are beginning to introduce new rules for people who have been there – including the US.

News from the US is that from Jan 5, all passengers will need to provide a negative Covid test, or proof of recovery, to board a flight to the US.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What’s going on in China?

Its zero-covid strategy is being abandoned amidst sky-rocketing case numbers. So much so that it is estimated that up to forty percent of its 1.4 billion have had it.

It’s not panic stations yet though, as the same path has been well-trodden by other countries in the past twelve months. But there is international concern over the accuracy of the statistics being reported, and more importantly the tests that identify new or potentially dangerous strains of the virus that might emerge.

Which is why we’re seeing new rules again for passengers who have been there.

Ironically there has also just been a big announcement that anyone headed to China no longer has to quarantine from Jan 8. Which means demand for travel back to the US for those who return is about to soar.

Enough of that. What’s the impact?

From 00:01z on January 5, anyone allowing a passenger to board a flight from China to the US will need to see proof of a negative Covid test taken within two days of departure, or certified proof of recovery that is less than 90 days old.

The rule will apply to all flights from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau including GA/BA flights.

It will apply to all passengers, including US citizens, regardless of vaccination status.

You can check the official announcement of all this from the US here.

The new US rule applies to arrivals from Hong Kong and Macau, as well as mainland China.

What type of tests will be accepted?

Viral tests that have been approved by the CDC.

Self-tests (including rapid antigen) are allowed, but must include at least a tele-health service to oversee the test, and certify the results along with the traveller’s identity.

Pax will be able self-test, but it will need to be monitored by an official health agency.

I’ve just had Covid. Do I need to test?

A certified proof of recovery is also acceptable, provided it meets two requirements – it has to be more than ten days old, but no more than 90.

I’ve only transited through China, do I still need to test?

No, provided passengers have stayed airside, they do not need to meet the new requirement.

What about crew?

Good news, you will be exempt. But you’ll need to be either operating, or positioning on the aircraft. It’s recommended you travel with a letter (paper or electronic) from your employer certifying you meet the requirements of the exemption. Another option for deadheading crew is that they are included on the gendec.

If you’re commuting, travelling for training (such as sims) or flying for other business reasons, bad luck. You will need to meet the same requirements as passengers.

Another gotcha.

The rule is also extended to passengers who have been in China, Hong Kong or Macau in the past ten days, and are arriving on flights from RKSI/Seoul, CYYZ/Toronto or CYVR/Vancouver.

What is the rest of the world doing?

It is likely we’ll see similar testing rules introduced globally, at least in the short term.

Several countries have already announced similar restrictions to the US: Canada, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, Morocco.

The good news is that there doesn’t appear to be any suggestion of quarantine or entry bans being added back to the mix. Just typical uncertainty of a pandemic-weary world. But we’ll continue to report on major changes that might affect you operationally as we see them.

If you’re headed to China, we recommend calling ahead.

Especially for crew.

Weren’t expecting to be trussed up like the xmas turkey? We need to hear from you!

China has had some of the most confusing and inconsistent entry rules since the start of the pandemic. They seem to vary from port-to-port. With the promise that crew no longer need to quarantine on a widespread scale, we’d love to hear from you if you’re headed there – especially if you encounter something you weren’t expecting.


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Chris Shieff

Chris Shieff

OPSGROUP team member and Airbus pilot. Based in sunny Auckland, New Zealand. Question for us? Write to

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