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 countries
based on fully vaccinated travellers departing from Singapore by air

Country Test type Test timing Exemptions
Hong Kong PCR
48h before departure
Japan PCR 72h before departure
Age 5 or below
Myanmar PCR 72h before arrival Age 5 or below
Qatar PCR 48h before departure
Age 3 or below
&
Vaccinated Qataris and residents
South Korea PCR
or
ART
PCR 2 days before departure
or
ART 1 day before departure
Age 5 or below
Taiwan PCR 2 days before departure
Taiwan citizens
&
residents

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.

27th March 2022 - 31st March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ51
A350 Long Haul
IAH
19:10
SIN

07:40*

* Two days later

Important

From 1st April 2022, there will be no more designated VTL flights to Singapore.
All fully vaccinated travellers can enter quarantine-free on any flight operated by any airline on any route.

27th March 2022 - 31st March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ37
A350 Long Haul
LAX
23:40
SIN

07:50*

* Two days later

Important

From 1st April 2022, there will be no more designated VTL flights to Singapore.
All fully vaccinated travellers can enter quarantine-free on any flight operated by any airline on any route.

27th March 2022 - 31st March 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.

Important

From 1st April 2022, there will be no more designated VTL flights to Singapore.
All fully vaccinated travellers can enter quarantine-free on any flight operated by any airline on any route.

27th March 2022 - 31st March 2022

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

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

05:45**
UA1
787-9
SFO
22:45
SIN

06:45**

* One day later
** Two days later

Important

From 1st April 2022, th