In response to the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus and in an effort to stop the spread, President Biden issued a new Proclamation Nov. 26, 2021, restricting travel to the United States from certain countries in the Africa region exposed to the Omicron variant.
As reported on this blog on Sept. 21 and Oct. 27, the president relaxed travel restrictions for foreign nationals traveling from China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the UK, Brazil, Ireland, South Africa, and India, and imposed new travel requirements for travelers from all other countries.
Effective Date and Termination
The new Proclamation is effective at 12:01 a.m. EST on Nov. 29, 2021, and will remain in effect until terminated by the president.
What Countries Are Affected?
The Proclamation applies to all travelers entering the United States from the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe.
What Are the New Travel Restrictions?
Travel is restricted to the United States if you have been physically present in one of the countries listed above within the 14-day period preceding entry or attempted to enter the United States.
Who Is Exempt?
- Lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States
- Noncitizen national of the United States
- Noncitizen who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen (USC) or LPR
- Noncitizen who is the parent or legal guardian of a USC or LPR who is under 21
- Noncitizen who is the sibling of a USC or LPR, if both are unmarried and under 21
- Noncitizen who is the child, foster child, or ward of a USC or LPR, or is a prospective adoptee
- Noncitizen traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus
- Noncitizen traveling as a nonimmigrant crewmember
- Noncitizens traveling for other reasons laid out in the Proclamation for diplomatic, military, law enforcement, national security, or United Nations purposes
Is a Waiver Available?
Previously, travelers subject to restrictions under Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 10143, and 10199 were eligible for applying for a National Interest Exception (NIE). The new Presidential Proclamation includes a provision that allows the secretary of state and the DHS secretary to lay out criteria that would set forth a NIE for those traveling from one of the eight African countries, if their entry to the United Sates would be in the national interest. The NIE is limited to those seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure or who provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the U.S. As previous blogs have reported (see June 3 post and March 8 post), it has become increasingly difficult to obtain approval.
Other than obtaining an NIE, one alternative to the travel ban would be to quarantine in a country that is not subject to the ban for 14 days before entering the United States.
Vaccination and COVID-19 Testing Required for Entry
Aside from these new travel restrictions, COVID-19 vaccination and testing Requirements remain in place. As previously reported, effective Nov. 8, all air travelers to the United States traveling on non-immigrant visas and correlating dependent visas must be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the United States, with only limited exceptions.
In addition, fully vaccinated air travelers will continue to be required to show documentation of a pre-departure negative COVID-19 viral test from a sample taken within three days of travel to the United States before boarding. That includes all travelers – USCs, LPRs, and foreign nationals. Unvaccinated travelers – whether U.S. citizens, LPRs, or the small number of excepted unvaccinated foreign nationals – will now need to show documentation of a negative viral test from a sample taken within one day of travel to the United States.