News Travel VTL

USA tightens pre-departure testing window to one day, including from Singapore

Pre-departure testing for those heading to the USA will need to be conducted no more than one day before your flight, for departures from 6th December.

The USA has announced some new safeguards for international travellers entering the country, which will also be applicable to those departing from Singapore for a two-way quarantine-free Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) trip, with a much shorter window for pre-departure testing than currently applies.

For those departing to the USA from overseas on or after Monday 6th December 2021 at 13:01 Singapore Time (flight departure), a negative pre-departure PCR or ART test for COVID-19 must have been conducted within one day (as little as 24h but up to 48h in some cases) of your flight departure time, because of concerns about the Omicron variant.

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That’s one of the shortest timeframes currently in force for pre-departure testing when travelling to one of Singapore’s VTL countries, though thankfully the option to take a rapid (~30 minute) ART test still means it shouldn’t pose a significant problem, you’ll just have to plan a little more carefully.

New pre-departure testing window

Currently, travellers heading to the USA must have their COVID-19 test within a generous 3-day window prior to the calendar day of departure, allowing at least 72 hours (and close to 96 hours in some cases) prior to the flight, in which to have your swab taken.

If your departure to the USA is on or after Monday 6th December 2021 (05:01 hours GMT, which is 13:01 hours Singapore time), you’ll now be subject to a shorter 1-day validity window for your pre-departure test (minimum 24 hours to maximum 48 hours, again dependent on your flight’s departure time).

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This timescale applies to the non-stop flight departure time, or the departure time of the first flight in a series of connections booked on the same itinerary, within which you will enter the USA from another country.

“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.”

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

The first Singapore Airlines flights to the USA to be affected (by flight number / route) will be:

  • SQ34 SIN-SFO at 18:40 on 6th December
  • SQ38 SIN-LAX at 20:45 on 6th December
    (and thereafter all SQ40 LAX flights too)
  • SQ26 SIN-FRA-JFK at 23:55 on 6th December
  • SQ8 SIN-HKG-SFO at 08:25 on 7th December
  • SQ28 SIN-YVR-SEA at 09:15 on 7th December
  • SQ24 SIN-JFK at 11:50 on 7th December
  • SQ52 SIN-MAN-IAH at 01:30 on 8th December
  • SQ12 SIN-NRT-LAX at 09:20 on 8th December

Note that SQ24 SIN-JFK on 6th December falls under the current rules (3-day swab), since it departs on 5th December Eastern Standard Time in the USA.

Here’s the before and after difference, using some Singapore – USA departure examples.

Example testing windows
Singapore – USA

Departure Flight Departure
Day / Time
Pre-departure testing for:
Departures
Now
Departures
From 6 Dec
SQ8
SIN – HKG – SFO
Friday
08:25
Tuesday
00:00 onwards
(80:25 window)
Thursday
00:00 onwards
(32:25 window)
SQ38
SIN – LAX
Friday
20:45
Tuesday
00:00 onwards
(92:45 window)
Thursday
00:00 onwards
(44:45 window)

As you can see it still makes a difference that the USA has not imposed a strict 24-hour test timing requirement, instead sticking to its previous policy of applying the number of days prior to your flight departure date in which you can get a test, so there’s some flexibility.

Obviously the later your flight departs the better in this case!

If you have a busy schedule, Raffles Medical at Changi Airport Terminal 3 (Basement 2) is open 24 hours a day and provides 30-minute turnaround ART testing at S$30.

Raffles Medical at Changi T3 provides ART testing. (Photo: Changi Airport)

It may therefore be easier to arrive at the airport earlier than planned and have the test done there before proceeding to check-in for your flight.

What about children?

The USA applies its pre-departure test requirement to all passengers except those under two years of age. This is not changing under the new shortened testing window.

Testing costs in Singapore

If you require a pre-departure test in Singapore before embarking on a trip, here’s our latest rundown of the cheapest locations to get a test suitable for travel.

Note in particular that self-administered ART tests are not accepted for travel purposes, so you’ll still need to visit a clinic and obtain a certificate from the health provider when travelling to countries that accept an ART swab, like the USA.

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Based on our recent analysis, pre-departure test costs in Singapore are around:

  • PCR: S$107 (cheapest) – S$149 (average)
  • Home PCR: S$138 (cheapest) – S$193 (average)
  • ART: S$27 (cheapest) – S$37 (average)

Other VTL countries requiring pre-departure testing

The USA isn’t the only VTL country requiring a pre-departure test for fully vaccinated Singapore residents.

You’ll also be subject to testing requirements when travelling to the following countries, in addition to VTL testing on your return:

Testing before travelling to selected VTL countries

VTL country Test type Test timing Exemptions
Australia PCR 72h before departure Age 4 or below
Brunei PCR 48h before departure
or
72h before departure (Singapore RGL)
Cambodia PCR 72h before arrival
Canada PCR 72h before departure Age 4 or below
Denmark PCR
or
ART
PCR 72h before arrival
or
ART 48h before arrival
Age 14 or below
or
Danish Residents
Fiji PCR 3 days* before departure Age 11 or below
Finland PCR
or
ART
48h before arrival Age 15 or below
or
Finnish Citizens / PRs
France PCR
or
ART
48h before departure Age 11 or below
India PCR 72h before departure Age 4 or below
Indonesia PCR 72h before departure
Italy PCR
or
ART
PCR 72h before arrival
or
ART 24h before arrival
Age 5 or below
Malaysia PCR 2 days before departure Age 2 or below
Maldives PCR 96h before departure Age below 1
Netherlands PCR
or
ART
PCR 48h before departure
or
ART 24h before departure
Age 11 or below
South Korea PCR 48h before departure Age 5 or below
Sri Lanka PCR 72h before departure Age 1 or below
Sweden PCR
or
ART
48h before arrival Age 11 or below
Switzerland PCR
or
ART
PCR 72h before departure
or
ART 24h before departure
Age 15 or below
Thailand PCR 72h before departure Age 5 or below
USA PCR
or
ART
1 day before departure Age 1 or below

* Passengers arriving in Fiji from the UK or USA must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 1 day of departure of the first flight or series of flights booked on the same itinerary.

VTL flights USA – Singapore

Here’s a list of the VTL (and non-VTL) flights from the USA to Singapore, which you’ll need to use on your return journey to benefit from quarantine-free arrival in Singapore, assuming you are also returning from the states (click to expand):

Note that this service operates via Manchester, with a 1 hour 35 minute transit stop en-route to Singapore.

19th January 2022 - 26th March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ51
A350-900
IAH
18:50
SIN

07:55*

* Two days later

27th March 2022 - 5th June 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ51
A350-900
IAH
19:10
SIN

07:40*

* Two days later

6th June 2022 - 29th October 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ51
A350-900
IAH
19:10
SIN

07:40*

* Two days later

Houston Singapore
Non-VTL

  • None

22nd December 2021 - 26th March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ37
A350-900
LAX
22:25
SIN

08:15*

* Two days later

27th March 2022 - 29th October 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ37
A350-900
LAX
23:25
SIN

07:35*

* Two days later

Los Angeles Singapore
Non-VTL

  • SQ11 services to Singapore via Tokyo are not designated VTL flights.

31st October 2021 - 16th January 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ23
A350-900 ULR
JFK
21:40
SIN

05:20*

* Two days later

17th January 2022 - 26th March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ25
777-300ER
JFK
20:15
SIN

06:50*
 bgcolor= SQ23
A350-900 ULR
JFK
21:40
SIN

05:20*

* Two days later

Note that the SQ25 service operates via Frankfurt, with a 1 hour 50 minute transit stop en-route to Singapore.

27th March 2022 - 29th October 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ25
A380^
JFK
20:55
SIN

06:50*
 bgcolor= SQ23
A350-900 ULR
JFK
22:30
SIN

05:20*

^ 777-300ER on 27th March
* Two days later

Note that the SQ25 service operates via Frankfurt, with a 1 hour 50 minute transit stop en-route to Singapore.

New York Singapore
Non-VTL

  • SQ25 to Singapore via Frankfurt (Daily) prior to 17th January 2022 is not a designated VTL flight.

5th January 2022 - 31st January 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ33
A350-900 ULR
SFO
20:50
SIN

06:25**
UA1
787-9
SFO
22:30
SIN

07:40**

** Two days later

1st February 2022 - 5th March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ31
A350-900
SFO
09:30
SIN

19:05*
 bgcolor= SQ33
A350-900 ULR
SFO
20:50
SIN

06:25**
UA1
787-9
SFO
22:30
SIN

07:40**

* One day later
** Two days later

6th March 2022 - 26th March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ31
A350-900
SFO
09:30
SIN

19:05*
 bgcolor= SQ33
A350-900 ULR
SFO
20:50
SIN

06:25**
UA1
787-9
SFO
22:30
SIN

07:40**

* One day later
** Two days later

27th March 2022 - 29th October 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ31
A350-900
SFO
11:30
SIN

19:10*
 bgcolor= SQ33
A350-900
SFO
22:05
SIN

05:45**

* One day later
** Two days later

San Francisco Singapore
Non-VTL

  • SQ7 to Singapore via Hong Kong (Tue, Thu, Sat) until 29th January 2022 are not designated VTL flights.
  • United Airlines has not yet confirmed its VTL schedule from 27th March 2022.

Note that this service operates via Vancouver, with a 1 hour 30 minute transit stop en-route to Singapore.

2nd December 2021 - 17th January 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ29
A350-900
SEA
11:00
SIN

22:05*

* Next day

18th January 2022 - 26th March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ27
A350-900
SEA
11:00
SIN

22:05*
 bgcolor= SQ29
A350-900
SEA
11:00
SIN

22:05*

* Next day

27th March 2022 - 29th October 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ27
A350-900
SEA
12:15
SIN

21:40*

* Next day

Seattle Singapore
Non-VTL

  • SQ27 (Tue, Fri) prior to 18th January 2022 are not designated VTL flights.

VTL testing to Singapore has also been beefed up

On your return from the USA (or any VTL country), you’ll now face two additional COVID-19 ART tests on Day 3 and Day 7 after your arrival day (Day 1).

These take the form of a supervised self-administered COVID-19 ART test at one of 50 Quick Test Centres (QTCs) / Combined Test Centres (CTCs) on Day 3 and Day 7 (arrival day is Day 1). The cost is S$15 including GST per test.

You must book an appointment before your visit. If you do not have a local mobile phone number, you won’t be able to make an appointment and will instead have to register in-person at the QTC/CTC.

You do not need to self-isolate after the Day 3 or Day 7 tests. Results are provided by SMS within 1 hour, but you can leave the QTC/CTC immediately after the test itself.

Unfortunately it means there will now be four separate COVID-19 tests to complete when travelling to Singapore on the VTL, for those touching down from 3rd December 2021, which slightly increases the associated costs.

VTL
Estimated Testing Costs 

Test Cost
Till
2 Dec
From
3 Dec
VTL country pre-departure* ~S$30 ~S$30
Singapore arrival S$125 S$125
Day 3 S$15
Day 7 S$15
Total S$155 S$185

* Prices vary between providers and locations.

That means there are now five COVID-19 tests on a roundtrip from Singapore to the USA.



 


 

Summary

Travel to the USA from Singapore has required pre-departure testing for some time, most recently allowing cheaper and quicker ART tests as well as PCR tests to be used.

Due to Omicron, the generous 3-day (up to 96 hours) testing window is being significantly curtailed for departures from Monday 6th December 2021 (1pm SGT onwards), with the new 1-day requirement allowing at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours to get your test taken and obtain the result, depending on the departure time of your flight.

That’s obviously a much shorter window, but with pre-departure ARTs readily available across Singapore it should still be fine for most travellers, with an at airport option for the time pressed.

(Cover Photo: Colton Duke)

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