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Covid-19 Testing for U.S. Residents Returning from Abroad

Abbott’s BinaxNow Covid-19 Ag Card Home Test

Pack it in your suitcase and take the test via a telehealth link at the end of your travels. Lab results immediately delivered to your email and Navica app to present to airline and border control authorities.

After traveling abroad, United States (U.S.) travelers now have one less thing to worry about when returning home. A reliable, rapid, trustworthy, and most importantly, approved Covid-19 test called BinaxNOW Ag Card allows you to test for Covid-19 anywhere in the world. In 15 minutes from taking the test, with no instrumentation and within the privacy and safety of your hotel room, you have results. C.D.C. approved, this affordable and portable digital health solution is the same test kit many medical providers use to test patients for Covid-19. After completing the test, you will have formal lab results immediately available to you.

Few people seem to know about this simple solution to Covid-19 testing when traveling overseas. As I nurse I am drawn to help people get better informed at what options they have. I will review the process and detail the simple steps to ensure that this test will work for you! No more seeking testing in a foreign country in which you don’t speak the language. You can now take back the control and gain peace of mind.

The goal of this article is to help you find all the answers you seek in one place. It took long hours of research and lots of varied sources to gather the info you may need. It shouldn’t be that hard, but sadly it often is. For many, they are so overwhelmed that they choose not to travel. Hopefully, this will provide a one-stop-shop for all your questions and concerns. If I don’t cover an area, please feel free to reach out to me by clicking here.

Photo from Abbott

Traveling during Covid

Must Know Information on BinaxNow Covid-19 Ag Card

Traveling during Covid-19 has come with its challenges. The ever-changing rules have made it difficult to track and consequently leads to a lot of confusion. It has kept many who are anxious to travel abroad hesitant to go. An added stress was when the U.S. Government in January 2021 instituted new requirements, referred to as the Order, that all U.S. citizens, and nationals, despite vaccinations status, must have a negative Covid-19 test within three days of their return flight home. This has become daunting for some as they are unsure where they will get a test, whether the results will be ready, will the test meet U.S. entry requirements, whether the cost will be prohibitive, and whether the language issues will become a barrier.

Recently, a new option has become available, and as a result, that puts much of that scary and unknown part to rest. We can attest that this new option is simple, and you remain in control of the situation. You are now able to self-test in the comfort of your hotel room along with a certified guide via video link. You pack the 2.5-ounce BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card kit in your luggage, and you are ready to go. When it is time to test, within 15 minutes, you have your results. The test is C.D.C., and F.D.A. cleared for use to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad. No unknowns, other than the test results themselves.

You can go on the long-overdue dream trip—the one you so need and deserve after a long hiatus from traveling.

We promise, YOU can do this!

We will show you how easy the process is from start to finish and answer all your questions to confidently move forward with your trip planning.

Can you see yourself already packing those bags???

How it works
Graphic from eMed

Key facts on BinaxNow Covid-19 Ag CARD

  • You must order the right kit!!!! The general BinaxNOW self-test kit does NOT comply with travel from abroad to US regulations. The kit you need is called BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card that requires a proctor via video link. Jump to sample image. If ordering from eMed you will get the correct kit.
  • Order the test kit online minimum four days before leaving for your trip if using eMed (details further down). They are shipped overnight on business days so keep that in mind when ordering.
  • Once you receive the kit download the free Navica app by scanning the code on the box with your phone, and pre-register before leaving home. This is a required element to complete the test.
  • Tests are virtually proctored, and you must have an internet connection to use the video link for the proctor to communicate and watch you take the test. Hotel internet has worked well for us, check out our experience below. You will be asked for proof of ID prior to taking the test therefore have it ready.
  • Please do NOT open the test kit until the proctor tells you to open it!
  • A lab report is generated and emailed to you shortly after completion of virtual online session. A copy of lab report is also placed in your Navica phone App.

Jump ahead to Let’s Get Testing

First a review of the Order by the C.D.C.

“Effective January 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) will require all air passengers two years of age, and over entering the United States (including U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents) to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three (3) calendar days of departure​, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. Airlines must confirm the negative test result or evidence of recent recovery for all passengers before boarding. ​Airlines must deny boarding of passengers who do not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery.” (Full State Department page at this link.)

To comply with the C.D.C. requirements, the Covid test can be self-administered as long as they meet these criteria:
  • The test must be either a viral antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test or a transcription-mediated amplification test.
  • The test must have Emergency Use Authorization (E.U.A.) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.).
  • The testing procedure must include a telehealth video call during which someone authorized by the manufacturer supervises the testing procedure. (Note that some FDA-authorized self-tests with a telehealth service may require a prescription, according to the C.D.C.)
  • The telehealth provider must issue a report confirming the patient’s identity, the name of the laboratory or healthcare entity, the type of test, and the specimen collection date.

For those who would prefer to take the test at destination test centers, numerous airlines and international hotels, including Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean, have introduced testing options and resources to help Americans fulfill the C.D.C. testing requirement abroad. 

When we traveled prior to this testing kit

On a trip back in the Spring of 2021, we needed to get a Covid-19 test before flying home from Greece. What made us a bit more nervous was that we were in a rural Crete the days before our flight and did not find any testing available in our research of the area. Luckily the hotel was fantastic, and they knew where we needed to go. They made the appointment for us and gave us directions. We trusted their guidance, but what if they were wrong?

The local testing worked well, but it took us over two hours out of our day. We left the area after the test quite nervous. Would we get the results they had promised? The results did arrive via email later that day. The cost was 60 euros a person, which is quite reasonable but still pricey.

Nonetheless, it was anxiety-provoking not to be able to follow up if we did not hear from the clinic. We had the Covid-19 test done at a day clinic in a small local hospital. They were very busy, and phones were ringing off the hook, and no one answered them! We had to wait in a long line to reach a person. The language barrier was a bit tricky. We lucked out in the end as the line grew quite a bit after we arrived.

Greece
Santorini Greece, just for fun

New options presented themselves

During this time, a new option was now coming the light. United Airlines began promoting, during our Greece trip, the BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card test that the C.D.C. approved for re-entry into the U.S. The exciting part is that you pack the test kit in your suitcase (the kit only weighs 2.5 ounces), and you can conduct the test independently. It sounded too good to be true, honestly. One of my concerns was I wanted a test that would have strong efficacy. The nurse side of me was skeptical and wondered how reliable and trustworthy it was. If I had Covid-19, I would never want to bring it back home or spread it to others around me during my travels. It was time to do some research.

My research on the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card

Research
Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

The results were better than I expected. A certified guide that they call a proctor walks you through the whole test. The BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card video link can occur on a cell phone or laptop. The entire process takes about 25 minutes, and most of that is waiting for the test to process.

I was curious how they could be sure that the test was on the correct person. You hear stories of people cheating on their testing. This test, though, is part of what makes this such a great option. You can only open the test kit only when the proctor comes on screen. If it is open before the session starts, the test kit becomes invalid. You must preregister on the Navica app to conduct the test, and you must present your I.D. during the session, such as your passport.

At the end of the session, eMed generates a lab report that you receive via email. The lab director is the signatory on the lab report (see my lab result later in the article). The results are also available on the phone app. The Navica passport displays the results, and the actual lab report is accessible on the app.

Abbott’s BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag CARD Kit

Covid-19
Photo from Abbott

Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag CARD Test is a rapid, reliable, highly portable, and affordable tool for detecting active COVID-19 infections. It is a rapid antigen self-test designed to detect both asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19. It can be used for children as young as 4 when adults collect the sample—those 15 and older can collect their sample. The antigen test detects multiple COVID-19 strains, including the Delta variant.

For those who want to exact the process used, as some governments are particular, the BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Antigen Self Test is a lateral flow immunoassay intended for the qualitative detection of nucleocapsid protein antigen from SARS-CoV-2.

BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card is by health and medical diagnostics company Abbott. Abbott is a world leader point of care solutions and a well-respected company that operates worldwide. As long as I have been a nurse, I have worked with Abbott products.

Company name

Our experience with the BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card

On our return to the states during a trip to Iceland, we conducted the test 48 hours before our departure. We were in a remote area of Iceland in an apartment on a farm. Internet worked great, and both of our sessions were flawless. It could not have been easier. There was no wait for a proctor, and we were done in about 20 minutes—the next day when we did the online check-in and uploaded the lab report to Icelandair.

Since then, I have had family and friends use the kit to re-enter the United States from places like Greece and South Africa with success.

We pushed the envelope a bit using the test to enter Iceland. Iceland requires a PCR or Antigen test within 72 hours of arrival. We became concerned with the surge of Covid-19 as we heard some Covid-19 tests were not coming back as quickly. The airport we fly out of offers testing but at the criminal price of $250 a person.

We verified the BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card did meet Icelands requirements. We also read in many places; people have used it for entry to Iceland with no issue. In our experience, that was the case as well. No issue at all. It saved us $450 in the end, pretty sweet.

Lake Mytavn
A picture of Iceland to break up all the medical stuff

Questions and Answers about the BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card test kit and traveling during Covid

I get many various kinds of questions about this test and the testing process in general. As a nurse, I always assure my patients there is no such thing as dumb questions in the medical world. To address the most common questions, I have put together a Q & A section to make it easier to seek the answers you want. Many questions are related to the scenarios you may face during travel.

Click on the plus sign by the questions you are interested in, and then the answer will drop down below. This way, you can spend time only on the questions that matter most to you.

YOU MUST order the right kit!

The general test kit does not comply with U.S. Re-entry testing

The test kit made by Abbott that you need for travel is the BinaxNow Covid-19 Ag Card Home Test. Abbott has two on the market, one you can use as a self-test and the one administered online with a proctor. Both kits are called BinaxNOW, which can lead to confusion. You must have the right one to use for international travel. The self-test kit can not be used to re-enter the U.S. because there is no proctor involved, and there are no lab results generated!! Here is an image of how the two kits look.

What to not buy
kits
Each kit comes with a sleeve to remind you not to open it. It also has a scannable bar code for Navica app download.

Let’s talk cost and where to get the BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card test kit

The Abbott BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card has a connection directly with eMed, which provides the certified guide/Proctor that guides you through the test via video link. The easiest and most reliable method to get your hands on the kits is through eMed directly. One downside is that they only come in packages of six. The cost is $150 plus overnight shipping. There was no sales tax on my order. See my receipt below. Click on this link to order the eMed BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card Home Test kits.

Keep in mind the recommendation is to carry two kits per person. In case you need the backup due to an invalid test or other issues. I know of one case when the reagent bottle used during the testing was empty. The test cannot occur without it.

These kits can be used when you are at home as well in cases where testing is needed for a job, volunteer assignments, family/friend gatherings, public events, etc. I have a stash of kits just for those purposes.

ORDER at least four days before your trip. The kits are shipped overnight except on weekends.

receipt

Do not need 6 kits? There is second option to order kits

There is one other company that you can buy in less quantity but at more cost per kit. Optum charges $50 for one kit, $69.99 for two, and $99.99 for three. They say it will arrive in three days via expedited shipping which is free. When I looked at the site, they were out of single kits. To reach the Optum online store, click here.

receipt

Can BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card be found in stores?

I have read the kits can be purchased at Walgreens and Walmart. The non-Ag Card kits without a proctor are often available there but DO NOT buy that one (see image above). I went to Walgreens and a Walmart in my area and couldn’t find any, even the non-proctored ones. I asked the pharmacist to confirm this, and she said they did not have any in stock. She did not recall ever having the Ag Card version.

BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card at this time is not on sites like Amazon. Technically this is a prescription item, and a series of questions must be verified before you can purchase it, and you must be over the age of 18. The verification process occurs with both options above.

Disclosure: We have absolutely no connection with these companies and DO NOT make any income whatsoever from any purchases. We pay the same price as you.

Important Expiration Date Info about the test kit

expiration date

*Please note expiration dates have been updated to 12 months after the production. Initially, the expiration date was six months, so most kits you get will have an expiration date that has passed. Do not worry about that. Look at the date below the lot number sticker and calculate one year from that date.

There is a letter by Abbott that attests to the new expiration date. Click here for the link to the letter stating the new expiration date.

So don’t panic your kit is good to go.*

Let’s get testing!

Completion of the test is a quick, easy process, and with the proctor, foolproof.

  1. Purchase the BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card. Purchase the kits at least 4 days before travel to assure timely arrival.
  2. When you receive the kit, scan the bar code on the box to download the Navica app. Register by opening an account with Navica to set up your digital account. Pack the kit(s) into your luggage.
  3. On the day of the test make sure you have an internet connnection, sign in to your Navica app. You will choose I have a Test option. It will ask you to scan the barcode on the outside of the test kit. PLEASE DO NOT OPEN!

    You will now connect to eMed to begin the testing at eMed.com/app/start-testing. You can use your laptop or phone. In our case we used the computer for the test and the phone to view the Navica app.

    You will be given three choices, click on I want to start testing. Follow the onscreen instructions and answer the questions given until you are clear to connect to the proctor.
  4. The proctor guides you verbally through the test, while onscreen instructions have excellent visual diagrams to follow as well. (see slide show below for those images).

    The swab is now in the card and they will then instruct to close it. The timer is set for 15 minutes. The proctor leaves the video chat.
  5. At 15 minutes, another proctor reviews the results and immediately generates both a lab report via email and results onto the Navica app.
AG card
Photo from Abbott

For the visual learners like me

I have put together a slide show of each testing process step for more visual learners like me. You will see the process has good details and is straightforward to follow. The graphics (except the ones that are pictures of our testing) are from the eMed site. These are the exact images you will see during your online session. As well, at all times, the proctor is verbally guiding you during the video call. You will start with the Navica app log in then the app will guide you from there.

Slide Show of testing process

Some photos in the slideshow from Abbott and eMed

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My lab results

Lab results


Please don’t forget even if you test negative; the NAVICA digital certificate should not replace existing measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing.

Covid-19 safety measures
Photo from C.D.C.

What if you test positive?

If you receive a positive result, you should remain self-isolation and inform your healthcare provider of your result. You should follow the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.)


If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include: This list of symptoms is not all-inclusive.

Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
New confusion or inability to arouse
Bluish lips or face

Having a positive test result is everyone’s nightmare. You obviously can not travel. Each country has its protocols for this situation. You should contact the local health department or a medical provider for further guidance.

Here are our little side notes that could come in handy to prepare you for testing. For those who want to learn everything they can ahead of time.

Order your kit online

The online ordering is quick, but they require that you enter the names and ages of the people who will use the kit, not for all six boxes but 3. That does not mean that all six kits link only to those people. The Navica App at the time of testing scans the kit bar code, which will connect it to the person testing. The proctor will also scan the bar code on the kit and link it to the person testing. We had had no issue when the person’s name did not match the original name with the order.

Download the Navica app once your kit arrives.

Once your kit arrives on the front sleeve of the box, you scan a bar code with your phone. That will download the Navica app to your phone. Complete this right away as you don’t want to be doing this overseas at the last minute. The app then guides you through setting up an account.

It will ask your address as this is a requirement for anyone testing so health authorities can be notified of positive test results. You will not need to reopen this app until the day of testing.

Make sure you have your login and password along on the trip.

Test day

When it’s time for your test, plan at least one hour for it. Before testing, you will need to scan the bar code via your Navica app. The test usually takes twenty-five minutes, but some reports have noted a delay in getting a proctor online. In all the cases I have been personally familiar most responses were immediate or within a few minutes, no matter the time of day or where you were in the world.

Find a quiet place with few distractions. Do not have television or music in the background. Clear a nice flat area to do the test.

Do it at the end of the day when you are not in a time crunch to be someplace.

Wash your hands before connecting and starting the testing process.

If you have a laptop, it would be ideal but not required.

Time for the test

Timing the test can be tricky because you don’t want to do it precisely at three days if the flight has a significant delay; you will need to do another test if that occurs. But if you do it at the two-day mark, that gives you little wiggle room to get a test locally if needed. Most large airports are doing tests, but they are much more expensive, and there could be long lines, as we have seen in some airports. We completed our test BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card test 48 hours before our departure. The 48 hours allowed us time to get it locally or at the airport to make an appt and plan accordingly if there were any issues.

You will need to sign in to your account then a screen will come up with two options. You will choose the one I have a test. There is a series of several questions that follow. It will ask you to scan the barcode on the box. Please do not open it!

Next, you will connect with the proctor via your laptop or phone. We used our computer because it was easier to position it so the proctor could see the whole process. They must observe you opening the kit, conducting the swabbing, and preparing it for analysis. We put our laptop up on a base, so it spanned the testing area and our face. A phone would work as well.

Logging in

As you begin the login process, the computer or phone will do a voice test. Once complete, you wait to be joined by the proctor. One of our family members had the voice fail though the proctor could still see them. They communicated moving forward via text.

The eMed proctor is not visible during the process, but they can see you. They will step you through the process; you do nothing ahead of time except wash your hands.

The process is straightforward though, for some reason, you may still find yourself quite nervous. Take a deep breath; you will be fine. The proctor is there to guide you to complete an accurate test. They are well trained, and we found them very calm and patient.

The proctor will first have you put the bar code in front of the camera so they can scan it. Then they will ask for I.D., which ideally should be your passport if you are using this for travel. Once they confirm you, they will begin the testing process by instructing you to open the kit.

The AG test Card

The Ag Card is about the size of a credit card. They ask you to remove it from its sleeve and then present the bar code on the test card in the camera. You will then place it on a flat surface along with the reagent bottle. The proctor guides every step from here.

Once swabbing is complete, they will guide you to close the card. A timer then begins counting down on the screen. The proctor says goodbye and advises you that someone will be back in precisely 15 minutes. That you can wander from the computer but stay near so you hear the alarm letting you know to return.

While you wait, you will note on the Ag Card; there is a control line. If you are negative, then no other bar will show up. If you are positive, a bar will appear during the 15 minutes. Of course, I stood there and watched closely for any sign of a line appearing—reminders of pregnancy tests from years past.

At precisely 15 minutes, the timer goes off, and a new person now joins you. The new proctor will ask you to present the card to the camera to read the result. They will then inquire what you see. The proctor will ask a few more questions about whether you are symptomatic, and if you are, you should see a medical provider even if the test is negative. They said the results should arrive shortly in your email; they did within seconds.

You throw away your test kit in the garbage. No special handling is needed.

You have results, now what?

If you are at a hotel, you can ask if them to print it out. I prefer paper to show at the airline counter. I also uploaded mine up onto the airline website during the check-in process. The Navica app on your phone also displays a “passport” indicating the test results and how many hours ago the test occurred. The app supposedly is adequate documentation, but we used the paper lab results ourselves.

I also took a screenshot of my lab results and my Navica pass.

Other important points

If you plan to enter a country using this test, I suggest you do so with great caution. If the country is unfamiliar with this test, the result could be pretty unpleasant, such as a mandated quarantine. We used it to get into Iceland with no issue, but we had verified many stories of people who had, and it does fit their requirements. But this is where risk could come into play. It has to be a country-by-country call.

To get home, you are golden if you have tested negative.

In all cases we are familiar with, once back in the U.S., you are not asked to present these results. The rules for the airlines are definitive; they can’t allow you to get on the plane without it. The penalties if they do are huge! However, we did have it ready as they advised us to do.

Final thoughts

The testing is a smooth, easy process. Most people who I know, including my blogging business partner, are not medical people. Therefore, they are on their own through the actual procedure. No one had an issue. It is fail-proof, and they designed it that way.

Travel feeds the soul, and as a result of Covid-19, many of us are lacking nourishment during this difficult time. Covid-19 testing has been a barrier to many people and leads them to be hesitant to travel. If this is your concern, as it is for so many others, now you are covered.

What has been surprising to me is how few people know about this test, so spread the word! As a nurse, it is in my DNA to help and educate people. With so much confusion on testing, especially when traveling overseas, I felt obliged to write this to alleviate some of the confusion.

We all must do our part to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Please share this article with friends and family who are about to travel. They will thank you if they were not aware of this easy option. It may also be of use in other aspects of their lives as well. BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card can be used to test before family gatherings, to meet job requirements, prior to concerts or other public events, and even going to restaurants where it is mandated. Save them time and money with the at-home rapid option.

Stay safe and healthy. Adhere to Covid-19 safety measures during your trips abroad and at home.

Wherever the compass leads you on your next adventure have the time of your life.

© 2021 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved

Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy

Footnotes/Additional links

F.D.A. approved written instructions for the BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag CARD test can be found here.

Should you have any further questions, you can contact eMed Customer Service at (866)-955-1173.

Warnings

The test does not replace the advice of a healthcare provider. You should seek immediate medical attention if you or your family members demonstrate emergency warning signs of COVID-19 (trouble breathing, bluish lips or face, or severe and constant pain or pressure in the chest). This list of symptoms is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

The BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test Kit manufacturer requires you to store test kits at temperatures between 2 and 30°C (35.6 – 86°F). Any extended exposure of the test kit to temperatures beyond this range may affect the quality of test results; therefore, if you have ordered home delivery of the test kit, expect temperatures in your area to be outside of this range at the time of delivery. In that case, we recommend that you arrange for someone to be home at or near the time of delivery to receive the test kit.

The BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test has not been F.D.A. cleared or approved. The F.D.A. has authorized it under an emergency use authorization. The test has been allowed only to detect proteins from SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens. It is only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostic tests for detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section 564(b)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1) unless the declaration is terminated or authorization is revoked sooner.

Specifications for BinaxNOW COVID-19 AG Card

Product Weight: 2.50 OZ

Box Dimensions: 8.25 in x 5.00 in x 0.75 in

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