Effective January 20, 2022, South Korea will require all international arriving passengers to present documentation of a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of their departure date. At present, passengers arriving from overseas must present proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. The South Korean government’s announcement is a response to the rapid spread of the omicron variant.

COVID-19 Testing Requirements for International Travelers

Under the updated entry restrictions, international travelers will have to undergo PCR testing within 48 hours of departure. The government has indicated that it will provide some flexibility by interpreting the 48-hour testing window to cover “two days.” Hence, a passenger departing at 10:00am on January 21 may present the negative result of a test taken at any time after midnight (12:00am) on January 19.

Only specific types of PCR tests will be accepted. At-home or self-administered tests are not acceptable; nor are antigen or antibody detection tests. Only PCR tests based on DNA amplification (such as RT-PCR, LAMP, TMA, SDA, and NEAR tests) will be valid for entry purposes.

Travelers must present a complete test certificate in either Korean or English showing the negative result. The certificate should specify the passenger’s name and date of birth, as well as the testing method, test date, test result, date of issuance, and name of the testing center.

Exceptions to the New Testing Requirements

With only limited exceptions, passengers without documentation of a negative PCR test will not be allowed to board their departing aircraft. Among other categories, these exceptions include:

  • Children under the age of 6;
  • Individuals with quarantine exemption certificates for official business reasons or humanitarian purposes (e.g., to attend a funeral); and
  • Flight crews.