I have been to a Schengen country in 2nd semester 2022. It required me no COVID test or vaccine to enter it.

On my way back to my home country, when checking-in, I was requested by the airline agent for either vaccination or negative COVID test — as I later found out, accurately so: I checked my country rules and that was a requirement for entrance (nothing specific about the means of entrance, just "entrance" in general), even for nationals.

I was caught by surprise and it was a bit of a hassle to get my electronic vaccination card, but all worked out fine in the end.

Yet, this left me wondering: Suppose I had no vaccine nor negative COVID test and that I furthermore refused to take either.

Since I had only a short-term entrance allowance (90 days), after its expiration, I'd no longer be there legally and something would have to happen. But what?

I suppose the host country couldn't force me to take test or vaccine. Would it deport me back to my home country, thus overriding the latter's rules? Is there any international general rule that would apply?

PS: I emphasize that, as said in paragraph 2, the denial was not originated from the airline (which by the way was the same on the way forward and on the way back). It was just abiding by my governments instructions.

  • 2
    Countries differ in how they've responded to today's health challenges. Whether you're admitted or refused entry will be up to the country involved, as well as the laws and regulations of that country at the time, as well as the mood that day of the immigration officer at the border. Nov 28, 2022 at 22:16
  • Lots of countries have a requirement for vaccination to enter, even for their nationals. However most have an option to quarantine instead. Without knowing your country it's impossible to know if this is the case for your country. Nov 28, 2022 at 23:10
  • 1
    Vaccine injection is more invasive and most countries would not actually physically force the injection on you. That's why most places have (had) an alternative for their own nationals (negative tests, quarantine, masks etc.). Not all, but many countries do force infectious disease tests on people in detention, which you can be put in for immigration violations.
    – xngtng
    Nov 29, 2022 at 0:38
  • 3
    Most Covid tests are no more invasive than DNA collection or body cavity search routinely carried out without the person's consent (albeit often with judicial or quasi-judicial supervision) if the state has a legal basis to detain and register such persons.
    – xngtng
    Nov 29, 2022 at 0:41
  • 5
    Note countries have long had vaccination requirements for other diseases, such as Yellow Fever.
    – user71659
    Nov 29, 2022 at 4:51

5 Answers 5


Is there any international general rule that would apply?

This is the only answerable part, everything else requires speculation.

Yes, there's an international rule. It is the "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" (Wikipedia). Article 12 of that document states, among other things, that:

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

Most countries of the world (almost all, in fact) are signatories to this document.

There's an article in the Blog of the European Journal of International Law that discusses the exact scenario you've raised in light of this convention obligations. There's a lot of legal analysis there, but it's readable by laymen (that's a blog, and not the actual journal).

  • 2
    The article was written in the early days of the pandemic, where foreign travelers were outright denied or quarantined. The situation changes when you have rapid, non-invasive tests, and vaccines, factors which it does not seem to address.
    – user71659
    Nov 29, 2022 at 4:49
  • 2
    @user71659 that's true, but even then the conclusion they reached was that the countries mentioned were violating the article.
    – littleadv
    Nov 29, 2022 at 4:51
  • 3
    @user71659 why? they could still be quarantined, how does a rapid test change that?
    – littleadv
    Nov 29, 2022 at 4:57
  • 8
    Calling medical restrictions "arbitrary" is questionable.
    – jwenting
    Nov 29, 2022 at 9:02
  • 2
    Note: the article is not about flying. Nov 29, 2022 at 13:07

There are 195 countries and each with it own sets of rules and preference. This makes for 37830 possible combinations here which makes a "general" answer impossible.

I suppose the host country couldn't force me to take test or vaccine.

They probably won't physically force you, but they could put you in quarantine or jail until you do. Some countries are nice, some are not.

Would the it deport me back to my home country,

Most likely: yes.

thus overriding the latter's rules?

Many countries have mutual agreements for how deportation works. Transportation needs to be arranged and if that's by air, the airline needs indemnification from fines for transporting a passenger who is not eligible to enter.

Chances are the home country will take you, stick you into quarantine (at your own expense) until you test or vaccinate. You might also get sued or fined by the government.

Is there any international general rule that would apply?

Yes. Most citizens have indeed the legal right to enter their home country. However that doesn't mean that countries don't violate this law and there is little recourse if they do. For example, the US wants all US citizens to have a valid passport when entering the US. If your passport is expired they can't deny you entry, however they can fine the airline. So in essence they use the airline as the enforcer for a rule they can't legally enforce themselves.

  • The expired passport is not a good example. Most countries provide consular services, including emergency travel documents, and in most cases people end up abroad with expired passports due to their own negligence. I'm aware of one case where it wouldn't be (the Israeli MoFA strike this year prevented issuance of passports and emergency documents abroad for almost a year) and the country allowed alternative ways of identification (including foreign passports).
    – littleadv
    Nov 29, 2022 at 5:04
  • 2
    The passport thing is instructive. Suppose someone is overstaying in Country B. The Country B authorities would like to send them back home to Country A, but their Country A passport has long expired, or it was lost or even intentionally destroyed. Country B may well make you get a new passport or temporary travel document for the purpose of deporting you, whether you want one or not. Country B is able to say, if their national laws permit, "do what's necessary for you to travel home, or sit in jail here until you do," whether that's cooperating with the consulate or taking a COVID test. Nov 29, 2022 at 7:55
  • 1
    Its an example how countries can easily work around laws they have signed but no intent on actually following. The law is just a useless piece of paper if there isn't a reasonable enforcement mechanism that comes with it.
    – Hilmar
    Nov 29, 2022 at 9:56
  • +1 for the correct math :)
    – WoJ
    Nov 29, 2022 at 11:00
  • @ZachLipton people being subject to deportation who don't have a valid passport are typically covered by a "transportation letter" or similar consular document that the deporting country obtains from the destination country. They aren't forced to rely on the intended deportee's having sufficient goodwill to make a passport application nor financial means to pay for one (which many won't have).
    – phoog
    Dec 9, 2022 at 11:12

Your question is much more generic. The same rules apply if you visited a region with yellow fiber, etc.

In general: if you are a health hazard, you cannot flight on commercial flights. Because COVID (and other diseases) were internationally recognized you can have such ban to flight. Public health has priority to individual freedom.

But so, how to reach your country?

In this case you should check other way to travel to your country, or a negative test (for other diseases there were also quarantine). For yellow fiber is also common: just travel to a zone without yellow fiber (which you are allowed to go, possibly without flying). Stay 14 days (depending on country entry requirement), and so now you can return to your home country (you proved with your "quarantine" to be safe).

For Ebola, some people organized special flights (e.g. air ambulance) with special equipment so they can return to home country (but still subject to quarantine). Usually it was just to go to a "western hospital to be cured from Ebola". But special flights.

Countries organized at beginning of the pandemic own flights to bring back citizens (just because airlines could not fly, or it was safe for them: risk to be blocked on a foreign country, and so many financial risk. If the flight is ordered by a government, risks are reduced, and the country will pay the airline in case of problems).

So, you are usually allowed back to your country (but then quarantine or other measures country specific), but it is your task to find a way (or your travel insurance). It is not a problem of commercial airlines, and you cannot pretend to fly with them. (an other reason to have a travel insurance).

  • As I said, it is in my country's regulations (in its gov site more specifically) that those are requirements to enter the country; nothing about the particular way in which one will enter the country is mentioned. It by no means mention airlines or commercial flight.
    – LoremIpsum
    Nov 29, 2022 at 15:40
  • @LoremIpsum: yeah, but your question (the title) is about flying. Many countries had different rules for reentry by road: go as quickly as possible in quarantine (possibly your home). As far I remember, just few countries (e.g. Australia) required quarantine at hotels for own citizen. Nov 29, 2022 at 15:45
  • That is true, the title does say that, but almost all airlines would be willing to carry me unvaccinated and without tests to my country. Airlines currently tend to simply abide by the departure/arrival country governments regulations.
    – LoremIpsum
    Nov 29, 2022 at 15:52

something would have to happen. But what?

Lots of things could happen. The Schengen country might make an exception for you since your home country wouldn't let you back in, or they might stick you on a plane back anyway. If they do send you back, your home country also might make an exception, or they might not and you'd end up living in the airport indefinitely. You'd need to choose a specific pair of countries for this part of your question to have a chance at having a solid answer.

Is there any international general rule that would apply?

Sort of. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." So if a country refused any of its own citizens entry, for this or any other reason, it would indeed be breaking this rule and violating their human rights. Unfortunately, like most international law, this one has no teeth, so they're almost certain to get away with breaking it.

  • 2
    "So if a country refused any of its own citizens entry, for this or any other reason," Wrong. Article 29 UDHR: "In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for... the general welfare in a democratic society." UDHR rights aren't absolute, and preventing COVID spread certainly is for the general welfare and individual rights of health (Article 25). Similarly, nobody is arguing that rights, like freedom of movement, shouldn't be taken away from those convicted of serious crimes.
    – user71659
    Nov 29, 2022 at 9:01

The airline is compelled to follow the rules for accepting passengers for transport. It's no skin off their rudder if you're put into a tough situation for overstaying your visa because you lack the proper documentation.

It would be the same thing if you didn't have a passport, you'd be denied boarding even though your own country would eventually let you in once convinced of your identity.


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