COVID-19 travel restrictions

President Joe Biden reinstates COVID-19 related international travel restrictions, adds South Africa to ban

President Joe Biden has reinstated a COVID-19 related international travel ban that was set to expire this week and added South Africa to the list of countries included in the measure.

Former President Donald Trump issued a proclamation shortly before leaving office that rescinded a previously issued order that had suspended entry of foreign nationals who had been physically present in the 26 countries in Europe’s “Schengen Area,” the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brazil in the 14-day period prior to traveling to the U.S.

The proclamation from Trump was set to take effect on Jan. 26 at 12:01 a.m. However, President Biden’s latest order on Monday means that the travel ban will remain in place. The proclamation continues to apply to all travelers except:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Lawful permanent residents of the U.S.
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents
  • A parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is unmarried and younger than 21 years old
  • A sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, as long as both are unmarried and younger than 21 years old
  • U.S. armed forces members, their spouses and children

The proclamation also continues to include exemptions for certain travelers whose entry into the U.S. is deemed to be in the national interest.

“The national emergency caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States continues to pose a grave threat to our health and security,” Biden wrote in the proclamation. “It is the policy of my Administration to implement science-based public health measures, across all areas of the Federal Government, to prevent further spread of the disease.”

Additionally, Biden added South Africa to the list of nations included in the ban, because the country is “experiencing widespread, ongoing person-to-person transmission … (of) the virus that causes COVID-19, including a variant strain of the virus known as B.1.351.” The measures also remain in place for travel to the U.S. from Iran and China.

The proclamation will remain in effect until it is terminated, and it orders the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide a recommendation as to whether the proclamation should be continued, modified or terminated 30 days from issuance and by the end of each month thereafter.

It also orders the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide a similar recommendation for the China and Iran suspensions.

Individuals seeking to travel internationally at this time and/or seeking to apply for a national interest exception should first consider consulting with the attorneys at Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm.

New COVID-19 testing requirement for air travelers entering U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s order requiring a negative COVID-19 test upon departure to the U.S. also remains in effect beginning Jan. 26.

That order requires all “air passengers arriving to the U.S. from a foreign country to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to present the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding (a) flight.”

The order applies to all travelers arriving to the United States via plane, including American citizens and legal permanent residents. Passengers must present “a paper or electronic copy of their test result for review by the airline” before boarding their plane.

If exempt or excepted from the travel ban and traveling to the U.S., individuals should ensure that they and their family members receive a viral test (NAAT or antigen test) and that they have documentation of their negative test results to show the airline prior to departure.

More information on the new CDC requirement can be found here.


The attorneys at Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm advise that individuals should closely monitor travel restrictions, requirements and updates before traveling. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will alert clients as circumstances evolve.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm at 704-442-8000 or via email with any questions.

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