U.S. to Impose New Travel Restrictions on Certain African Countries

Nov 29, 2021 | Consular Services & Travel

As a result of South Africa identifying a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, Omicron, the U.S. and numerous other countries have imposed new travel restrictions on certain countries in southern Africa effective Monday 12:01 a.m. EST, November 29, 2021.

President Joe Biden indicated the restrictions were imposed “as a precautionary measure until we have more information.” Several other countries have followed imposing harsh restrictions on persons from or who have travelled to Southern Africa.

Under the proclamation, the U.S. will bar entry to most foreign nationals who have been physically present in the past 14 days in either Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe. 

There are a few exemptions, including:

  • Any lawful permanent resident of the United States;
  • Any noncitizen national of the United States;
  • Any noncitizen who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • Any noncitizen who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any noncitizen who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any noncitizen who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Any noncitizen traveling at the invitation of the U.S. for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • Any noncitizen traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crew-member or any noncitizen otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew;
  • Any noncitizen who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or who is a spouse or child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces;
  • Any noncitizen whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;
  • Any noncitizen or group of non-citizens whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees;
  • Any noncitizen that is:
    • Seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to one of the following visas:  A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories); or
    • Whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement.

Read the entire proclamation here.

The criteria and standards for the “national interest exception” (NIE) under this new regional COVID travel ban have not yet been announced. Previously, persons subject to the ban who did not qualify for an exception would not be issued a visa. A critical issue is whether the prior one-year validity NIE issued under prior regional bans for South Africa will be effective. The Department of State will issue their guidance soon.

It is important for those who do qualify for exemptions to note the November 8, 2021, restrictions for all air travelers requires COVID vaccination and testing for almost all foreign nationals traveling to the United States. For more information on these restrictions, see WR Immigration’s article on vaccination requirements.

This is a developing story; stay tuned as WR Immigration will publish an update detailing further specifics of this new ban as soon as they are made known.

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