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I'm traveling to USA and need to get a covid test "within 3 days of departure". What does it actually mean?

I'm flying on Wednesday. Does this mean I can get the test on Sunday/Monday/Tuesday or Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday Or does it mean within 72 hours of the departure time?

I'm flying with BA if that matters.

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  • For completeness, it's important to remember that at this time, it's 3 days for vaccinated passengers, but for the people who can travel to the US unvaccinated (US citizens and permanent residents), it's 1 day.
    – jcaron
    Nov 28 '21 at 22:23
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3 days does not mean 72 hours. 3 days before your Wednesday departure is Sunday, so a test any time on Sunday would be acceptable. They changed the requirement from a number of hours to a number of days so that the time in a day does not matter. See this page which contains the following question and answer (under "Timing Requirements"):

Why does the Order specify 1 day and 3 days rather than 24 hours and 72 hours? What is considered 1 day and 3 days?

The 1-day period is 1 day before the flight’s departure and the 3-day period is the 3 days before the flight’s departure. The Order uses 1-day and 3-day time frames instead of 24 hours and 72 hours to provide more flexibility to the air passenger and aircraft operator. By using a 1-day and 3-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 you are fully vaccinated and your flight is at 1pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Tuesday or after. If you are not fully vaccinated and your flight is at 1pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday.

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    It's probably worth it to emphasise that this is the rule for travel to the US, it does not apply to other countries. Also, if you happen to be in the edge case that your test was taken within 1/3 days but not 24/72 hours, it's probably wise to print the page linked in this answer and bring it with you, as well as bookmark the relevant link, so you can convince an agent lost between the rules of various countries which may be inclined not to accept such a test.
    – jcaron
    Nov 28 '21 at 22:28
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Update 2021-12-05: in response to the Omicron variant, for flights departing at or after 12:01 AM EST on December 6, 2021, the COVID test has to be done 1 day before the flight departure. Source: CDC order.

Since OP couldn't find the information in my previous link, I'll add some quotes here:

CDC order:

This Notice and Amended Order supersede the previous Order signed by the CDC Director on October 25, 2021. This Order shall enter into effect for flights departing at or after 12:01 a.m. EST (5:01 a.m. GMT) on December 06, 2021. [...] Documentation of a negative SARS-CoV-2 viral test result from a specimen collected no more than 1 calendar day preceding the passenger’s flight to the United States.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html:

Why does the Order specify 1 day rather than 24 hours? What is considered 1 day?

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.


Original answer:

I'm flying on Wednesday. Does this mean I can get the test on Sunday/Monday/Tuesday?

Yes, as far as the US is concerned.

I'd advise to do the test within 72h if possible or if not call the airline while recording the call, because some airline employees, such as some Qatar Airways employees I've encountered, can't read properly and mistakenly think 3 days = 72h, or may have their own policies.

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  • Thanks. Calling the airline doesn't seem to be possible. See my other question about this trip. I have the year booked for Sunday, within 72 hours, so should be ok. Thanks.
    – Aleks G
    Nov 28 '21 at 13:18
  • Also, that link doesn't qualify either about 3 days. It just says "no more than 3 days before"
    – Aleks G
    Nov 28 '21 at 13:19
  • @AleksG search for 72. Good luck with BA! Took me 2.5h with QR. Nov 28 '21 at 13:20

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