Border Measures: ART swabs valid for PDT; testing window expanded; new VTL additions and category upgrades

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From 12 November, Singapore will ease its PDT requirement & VTL travel history rules, and upgrade more countries to lower risk categories.

Singapore has announced a fresh set of updates to its border measures, which take effect from 12 November 2021 onwards.

A major development is that cheaper ART results will now be accepted as valid pre-departure tests (PDT) for arrivals from Category II and III countries (Category I does not need a PDT), plus travellers on the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL).

Singapore will also be expanding the window to do a pre-departure test from 48 hours to 2 days (there is a difference, as we’ll see below!), and upgrading a host of countries to the less-restrictive Categories II and III. 

ART swabs will be accepted for pre-departure testing

Cheaper ART swabs will now be valid as PDTs for travel to Singapore

One of the major pain points of travelling to Singapore right now is the cost of COVID-19 testing. Singapore currently accepts only PCR results for PDTs, and the cost overseas can sometimes exceed S$200 a test. 

From 12 November 2021, Singapore will relax this requirement and recognise a negative professionally administered ART result as a valid PDT for travellers arriving in/transiting through Singapore from Category II/III countries (including travellers via the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL)). 

Note the “professionally administered” requirement- the test must be done by a trained professional, i.e. self-swabs will not qualify. Still, this has the potential to save a ton of money, as a professionally-administered ART is much cheaper than its PCR equivalent. 

The results memo for your ART must still state:

  • Negative test result in English
  • Date the test was taken
  • Traveller name
  • Date of birth or passport number

You can, of course, continue to take a PCR test for your PDT if you so desire. 

PDT window expanded to 2 days

The current requirement is that samples for PDTs must be taken within 48 hours of flight departure. For example, if your flight departs at 2000 hours on 20 December 2021, your sample must be taken no earlier than 2000 hours on 18 December 2021.

This presents logistical issues overseas, where clinics may not open so late. It effectively means you have to rush down first thing in the morning on 19 December, and in places with slower turnaround times, may lead to some anxiety. 

From 12 November 2021, the window expands to 2 days. Using the example above, you could now take your test anytime from 0000 hours on 18 December 2021.

It’s obviously not as good as the 72 hours that most other countries prescribe, but is still a step in the right direction. 

VTL transit can now include Category I countries

A VTL traveller’s 14-day travel history may now include Singapore, VTL countries and Category I countries

It’s kind of silly, but the current VTL rules say that your 14-day travel history can only include Singapore and/or VTL countries. This means you can’t transit in a Category I country en route to Singapore, even though these are supposedly lower risk than the Category II countries that make up the VTL!

From 12 November 2021, the rule will be modified such that your 14-day travel history may include Category I countries too. This brief but important development is tucked away in ICA’s VTL requirements page, under section (1) Eligibility, subsection Criteria 3: Travel History & Designated VTL Flight Requirements. 

In other words, you could fly on Cathay Pacific from Singapore to San Francisco via Hong Kong, and return to Singapore within 14 days, still under VTL conditions. However, you must return to Singapore on a designated VTL flight, which means you wouldn’t be able to do this in the opposite direction.

I’ve shared further thoughts in the article below

VTL: 14-day travel history can now include Category I countries

Category upgrades

Malaysia is getting an upgrade to Category II, ahead of its addition to the VTL scheme

From 12 November 2021, Singapore will be reclassifying the following countries as Category II: Cambodia, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Maldives, Qatar, Rwanda, Samoa, South Africa, Tonga, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Vietnam.

The following countries will be reclassified as Category III: Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kuwait, Laos, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ukraine.

The reclassification of Malaysia to Category II coincides with the announcement of a Singapore-Kuala Lumpur VTL, starting 29 November 2021 for air travel only. And with Indonesia’s upgrade, well, there might be some interesting news on that front soon too.

Here’s a summary of Singapore’s revised border measures, effective from 12 November 2021. 

🛂Singapore Border Restrictions by Category
 Cat. I Cat. II Cat. IIICat. IVVTL
Short-term visitors
Pre-departure test
2 days

2 days

2 days

2 days
On-arrival PCR test


Post-SHN PCR testN/A



Here’s the updated list of countries by category. For the most up to date list, do refer to the ICA’s SHN and Swab Summary page. 

Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China, Taiwan
IIAustralia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bhutan, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Cambodia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark1, Egypt, Fiji,
France2, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland,
Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, the Netherlands3, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Rwanda, the Republic of Korea, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain4, Sweden, Switzerland, Tonga, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates the United Kingdom5, the United States6, Vatican City and Vietnam
IIIArgentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, India, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ukraine
IVAll other countries/territories
1Including the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
2Including all overseas departments and regions (DROM), overseas collectivities (COM), overseas territories (TOM), and New Caledonia.
3Including Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and all special municipalities.
4Including Canary Islands
5Including the Crown Dependencies (Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Jersey), and all British Overseas Territories.
6Including the US territories of American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands.

Finland and Sweden added to VTL

Amidst all the excitement, it’s easy to miss the announcement that Finland and Sweden will be joining the VTL scheme from 29 November 2021!

🌎 VTL Agreements
Current VTL
  • Australia (one-way)
  • Brunei (one-way)
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
From 15 Nov 2021
  • South Korea
From 21 Nov 2021
  • Australia (two-way, NSW & Vic. only)
From 29 Nov 2021
  • Finland
  • Malaysia (air travel only)
  • Sweden

For more details, refer to the article below.

Finland and Sweden joining VTL scheme from 29 November


Those with overseas travel plans will be very pleased to learn about the relaxed pre-departure test requirements and window, which will reduce some anxiety (and cost) from traveling. 

I’m also glad that a common-sense approach has been taken in allowing VTL travellers’ 14-day travel history to include the lowest risk Category I countries as well. 

I’ll be sharing more thoughts on these developments very soon, so stay tuned. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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