USA VTL: Pre-departure COVID test window tightened to one day

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Passengers travelling to the USA from 6 December must take an ART/PCR test within 1 day (24-48 hours) of departure.

Due to concerns about the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the USA has decided to tighten its pre-departure test requirement for all travellers, regardless of nationality or vaccination status.

From Monday 6 December 2021, all travellers departing for the USA will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than one day before travel (which actually works out to 24-48 hours; see below) .

The test result will need to be presented to airline staff before check-in is permitted.

USA tightens pre-departure testing timeline

Travellers to the USA will soon have tightened testing windows

Currently, the USA accepts both antigen and PCR test results with samples taken within three days of departure time. 

For flights departing from 12.01 am EST on 6 December 2021 (1.01 p.m Singapore time) onwards, the testing window will be tightened to one day.  As before, children aged below 2 are exempt.

 Before 6 Dec 2021From 6 Dec 2021
Acceptable TestsART/PCRART/PCR
Testing Window3 days1 day
ExemptionChildren aged below 2Children aged below 2

Note how it’s “one day” and not “24 hours”. This is a crucial distinction. To illustrate, if your flight to the USA departs at 11 p.m on 20 December 2021, you can take your test any time from 12 a.m on 19 December 2021 onwards.

Or as stated in the FAQs:

The 1-day period is 1 day before the flight’s departure. The Order uses a 1-day time frame instead of 24 hours to provide more flexibility to the air passenger and aircraft operator. By using a 1-day window, test acceptability does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test sample was taken.

For example, if your flight is at 1pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday.

This means that in a best case scenario, you have up to 48 hours to do your test. 

Of course it doesn’t really matter since I imagine most people will go for the cheaper ART option, the results of which should be back in much less than an hour. You can even integrate testing into your departure process by visiting the Raffles Medical Clinic at B2 of Changi Terminal 3, which opens 24 hours a day.

Antigen tests at Raffles Medical cost S$30, but you can get 10% off by visiting this page and entering the code SIARMGART at check-out. 

🧒 Travelling With Children?
Do note that Raffles Medical Clinic at Changi Terminal 3 will only swab children 6 years and older, so if you’re travelling with children aged 2-5, you’ll need to find another venue.

For other swabbing options, refer to the article below. 

Where’s the cheapest pre-departure COVID-19 ART/PCR test in Singapore?

VTL testing requirement has been tightened

As a reminder, Singapore tightened its VTL testing regime for arrivals from 3 December 2021 onwards, and will further tighten it from 7 December 2021 onwards.

From 3 December 2021

From 3 December 2021, travellers arriving on the VTL scheme now need to undergo supervised, self-administered ART swabs at a Quick Test Centre on Days 3 and 7 of their arrival (the day you enter Singapore counts as Day 1).

 Before 3 Dec 2021From 3 Dec 2021
Pre-departure testART/PCR within 2 daysART/PCR within 2 days
On arrivalPCRPCR
Day 3N/AART
(new)
Day 7N/AART
(new)

These must be done by 2130 hours (Singapore time) on the relevant days, and instructions will be emailed to travellers on arrival in Singapore.

There is no need to isolate while awaiting the results of the Day 3 and 7 ART swabs (which will anyways be rather fast, given they’re the ART variety). These tests will cost S$15 each, and must be done at one of the venues below.

QTC/CTC Locations
Book Appointment

Children aged 2 and below in this calendar year are not required to undergo Day 3 and Day 7 ARTs. Children aged 3 to 12 must be accompanied by a caregiver, aged 21 years old and above. The caregiver may be required to help administer the test if the child is unable to do so.

There is no requirement that you stay in Singapore for at least seven days between your trips. You are excused from testing if the scheduled time of departure of your flight is before 2130 hours on the day of test.

From 7 December 2021

From 7 December 2021, travellers arriving on the VTL scheme will be put on a daily testing regime over seven days using ART.

☝️ What about entry before 7 December?
Travellers who have entered Singapore between 3 December 2021 and 6 December 2021 (inclusive) are not required to undergo the self-administered ARTs on Days 2, 4, 5 and 6 of their arrival, but will continue to be required to take the supervised self-administered ARTs at QTCs or CTCs on Days 3 and 7 of their arrival.

This includes the Day 3 & 7 supervised swabs mentioned above, as well as Day 2, 4, 5 and 6, unsupervised swabs, done at home. These must be done before going out for activities on that day. 

Travellers must submit their results from Days 2, 4, 5 and 6 online using a link which will be emailed to them on arrival. Needless to say, the authorities will take a very dim view towards missing a submission- play stupid games, win stupid prizes. 

Here’s an illustrative testing regime, for a traveller arriving in Singapore on 7 December 2021. 

DayDateTest
Within 2 days before departureOn or after 5 Dec 21Pre-departure ART/PCR 
1 (arrival)7 Dec 21On-arrival PCR (for VTL-Air) or ART (for VTL-Land)
28 Dec 21Unsupervised ART
39 Dec 21Supervised ART
410 Dec 21Unsupervised ART
511 Dec 21Unsupervised ART
612 Dec 21Unsupervised ART
713 Dec 21Supervised ART

All in all, a round-trip journey from Singapore to the USA will involve a total of nine COVID-19 tests, of which eight can be the cheaper antigen variety. 

⚕️ VTL Testing Regime
LocationRemarksPrice
🇸🇬 Singapore 1 day before departure (ART/PCR)From S$21^
🇺🇸 USA2 days before departure (ART/PCR)Varies
🇸🇬 SingaporeOn arrival at Changi (PCR)S$125^
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 2 (ART)S$5^
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 3 (Supervised ART)S$15^
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 4 (ART)S$5^
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 5 (ART)S$5^
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 6 (ART)S$5^
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 7 (Supervised ART)S$15^
^Children aged 2 and under are exempt

Conclusion

The USA has tightened its pre-departure testing requirements, which will affect you if you’re planning to fly from 6 December 2021 onwards. 

Thankfully, the cheaper, faster ART results are still accepted, and on the whole testing shouldn’t pose too much of an inconvenience to would-be travellers.

For further questions about the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme, do check out the guide I’ve put together.

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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Daniel

Hi
If a person is going on a cruise on day 6 after returning from vtl. Is this allowed?

J L

For RCL, no. I’ve checked again with them recently due to the new VTL routes available, but the customer service person told me that they have not changed the “14-day prior no fly rule” as of now.

Bryan

hi, if I’m going to be on an SQ flight to SFO, do i need PCR? Or is ART sufficient?

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