The United States has implemented travel restrictions on individuals traveling from eight African countries because of the COVID-19 variant Omicron.
The new restrictions went into place on November 29 and specifically impact noncitizens who have been physically present in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the 14-day period prior to traveling to the U.S.
The proclamation will remain in effect until it is terminated by President Joe Biden.
“According to the WHO (World Health Organization), preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other variants of concern,” Biden wrote in a proclamation released late last week. “Further, the WHO reports that the number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in the Republic of South Africa.”
The proclamation continued: “In addition to these travel restrictions, the CDC shall implement other mitigation measures for travelers departing from the countries listed … and destined for the United States, as needed.”
The proclamation is similar to travel restrictions put in place earlier in the pandemic on more than 30 countries. The new restrictions do not apply to:
- Lawful permanent residents of the United States
- Noncitizen nationals of the United States
- Noncitizens who are the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- Noncitizens who are the parents or legal guardians of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21
- Noncitizens who are the siblings of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21
- Noncitizens who are the children, foster children or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
The proclamation also includes multiple exemptions and exceptions for:
- Noncitizens traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus
- Noncitizens traveling pursuant to a C-1, D or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or noncitizens otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew
- Noncitizens whose travel falls within the scope of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement
- Noncitizens who are members of the U.S. Armed Forces or who are a spouse or child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces
- Noncitizens whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives
- Noncitizens or groups of noncitizens whose entry would be in the “national interest,” as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security or their designees
The attorneys at Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm continue to monitor the situation closely and will provide updates as information evolves.