White House Issues New Travel Bans for Eight Countries in Southern Africa

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The Biden administration has issued a ban that prohibits individuals that have been in several of the countries of Africa within the previous 14 days. This travel ban will begin on November 29th at 12:01 am Eastern Time. This ban will not apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and there will be a few other exceptions. The countries it applies to are Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Eswatini.

The ban was put in place due to the “Omicron” B.1.1.529 COVID-19 variant as well as guidance given by the World Health Organization (WHO) concerning the growing risk of infection from the Omicron variant and the increase in cases in South Africa.

There are some individuals that are not subject to the ban, but they must still follow the current requirements for entering the United States. These are the people that are exempt from the ban.

  • Citizens of the United States
  • Permanent Residents of the United States
  • Spouses of United States Citizens and Permanent residents
  • Noncitizen nationals of the United States
  •  A foreign national that is the permanent guardian or parent of a lawful permanent resident under the age of 21 or an unmarried U.S. citizen under the age of 21
  • A foreign national that is under 21 years of age and is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident that is under the age of 21
  • A foreign national who is the child, foster child, or ward of a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, or a potential adoptee trying to enter the U.S. on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa
  • A foreign national traveling to the United States by invitation from the U.S. government for reasons of containment or mitigation of the COVID-19 virus
  • A foreign national whose entry into the United States would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives
  • A foreign national whose entry into the United States would be in the national interest
  • Members of the Armed Forces of the United States and their spouses and children
  • A foreign national traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the COVID-19 virus
  • Any noncitizen traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any noncitizen otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew

This ban is triggered by being present in the applicable countries for any reasons, including layovers or flight connections. So, it is important to take care when arranging travel.

There are typically two options for returning from COVID-banned countries.

  • Obtaining a national interest exemption from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a person’s home country.
  • Returning to the United States after a 14-day quarantine stay in a country that is not banned by the U.S.

Employers with workers currently operating in these regions or with current plans to bring workers under ordinary work visas may need to make alternative plans. Given the length of the restrictions placed in response to the previous virus outbreaks, these do not seem likely to be lifted any time soon.