This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Loan Huynh, Fredrikson Immigration Department Chair, is a member.
Temporary travel restrictions the Biden administration imposed in November on foreign travelers from South Africa and seven other countries in the region, due to the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, were lifted on December 31, 2021, following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to South Africa, the other countries include Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. A related Presidential Proclamation noted, among other things, that “scientific experts have determined that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the Omicron variant. Moreover, the Omicron variant has now spread to more than 100 countries, and it is prevalent in the United States.”
People traveling from South Africa and the other seven countries will now need to meet the same requirements as other foreign travelers to the United States: be fully vaccinated and obtain a negative COVID-19 test within a day before their departure to the United States. All travelers, including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals, must show to the airline documentation of a negative viral test result taken within one day of the flight’s departure before boarding. The CDC recently shortened the testing time period from within three days before travel to within one day.
The Department of State (DOS) noted that the rescission of the travel ban does not necessarily mean that a local U.S. embassy or consulate can immediately schedule all affected applicants for visa interviews. DOS recommended that travelers check the embassy or consulate website for information on what services they are offering and instructions on how to apply for a visa.