USA: New COVID-19 Restrictions in Response to Omicron Variant
Authors: Michael H. Neifach
The Administration has imposed new restrictions beginning November 29, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. ET on individuals travelling to the United States from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe (the “South African restrictions”) in response to the appearance of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. These restrictions go into effect just three weeks after the lifting of other geographic travel restrictions. Those on board a flight to the United States that departed prior to 12:01 a.m. ET will not be affected.
Like the prior geographic limitations, the South African restrictions apply to anyone who has been in one of the restricted countries anytime during the 14 days prior to travel. U.S citizens and permanent residents are not subject to this ban. Others who are exempted include: family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, crew members, diplomats, members of the U.S. armed forces, and those whose entry is in the national interest. National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) are expected to be in effect.
The U.S. Embassy in South Africa has announced that consulates in South Africa will continue to accept and process nonimmigrant visa applications while the restrictions are in place. This is a marked change from NIE processing previously, where consulates refused to accept nonimmigrant applications without an approved NIE waiver.
These new restrictions have been described as precautionary. The CDC will be introducing other measures. Those who are exempted from the ban must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to travel. The “fully vaccinated” rules (and its exemptions) also will apply.
The restrictions will remain in effect until terminated by the President.