How Different Countries Approach COVID Testing & Vaccine Requirements

by joeheg

One requirement put into place during COVID-19 that will persist for a while is the need to show proof of a negative COVID test before international travel. While some countries loosened the requirements when the vaccines became more widely used, it’s obvious that vaccination alone is not enough to keep you from catching COVID and passing it on to others.

While some countries still haven’t opened their borders to international visitors, and might not for a while, the ones that do allow overseas travelers usually require some type of COVID testing before arrival.  It’s really interesting to see how different countries handle these requirements and how strict, or lax, the inspections are at the border.


All visitors have to visit the website to pre-register no earlier than 72 hours before your trip. You’ll need to provide a phone number or email to get a confirmation code.

Here’s how it went when we went to Iceland this past July. After providing our personal info, flight info, and trip details, we each received an email with a link to a barcode. When we checked in with Icelandair at JFK, we were asked to show our barcodes and vaccine cards at the desk.

When we arrived in Iceland, after going through the usual immigration check, we headed to another set of queues. Here’s where an agent (wearing a FILA tracksuit :-)) asked to see our barcode and vaccine cards. He typed in some information and as soon as we walked away we received a text.

This confirms that you are exempt from quarantine upon arrival in Iceland. Be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19 and seek testing if symptoms occur


Greece was one of the first countries to welcome back international visitors. They’re different from Iceland because you can enter if you are fully vaccinated, have recovered from a documented case of COVID or show a negative COVID test before entry. All people, regardless of vaccination status, are subject to random COVID tests upon arrival.

Greece also requires you to pre-register before arrival at You can find a step-by-step walkthrough of filling out the form and what it’s like to enter Greece on this post from OMAAT.

At the airport, checking the QR codes and vaccination cards (or other documentation) is done separately from the immigration process.


The northern border of the US was closed until recently. As of August 9, 2021, American citizens and permanent residents of the United States, currently residing in and arriving from the United States, and who qualify for the fully vaccinated traveler exemption do not have to quarantine nor get re-tested 8 days after arrival.

Everyone entering Canada has to upload the negative PCR test results to the ArriveCan app within 72 hours before arrival. For a story about what it’s like to enter Canada by car, check out this episode of the Miles to Go podcast. Canada had plenty of time to plan for this, so it looks like the process went pretty smooth despite it only being in place a few days at the time.

United States

Now that we’ve looked at how other countries are handling the processing of people entering their countries, what is the United States doing at the border to check that everyone has a negative COVID test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months?

In our case, we did a COVID test in Iceland using the eMed Binax-NOW test. When the airport agent giving us a scare by saying only PCR tests were acceptable, he also gave us a form to fill out.

While the rest of the world has a website or smartphone app to register people at the border, the USA uses a piece of paper. After we each filled out the forms, we handed them to the Icelandair agent. She then asked for our test results. We showed her our NAVICA app on our phones and she made some clicks on her keyboard. We didn’t get the letters back, which made me wonder what we’d have to do when we arrived in the US.

After arriving at JFK, we headed to the Global Entry kiosk and got our receipt before heading to the single person working our line. FWIW, I’m still a little freaked out about the new upgrades to the GE machines. We had our test results up on our phones, but no need. All we were asked were the normal immigration questions and we were back in the US. No one looked at our test results. That’s the same as Ed experienced when driving back into the US from Canada when handing the test results to the guard and he was told, “We don’t care about that crap.”

Welcome to America.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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