The U.S. will impose new travel restrictions Monday on South Africa and seven other African countries following the emergence of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus.

Key Points:

  • Under a White House proclamation that will take effect at 12:01 a.m. EST on Monday, Nov. 29, the U.S. will bar entry to most foreign nationals who have been physically present in the past 14 days in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe.
  • The proclamation will apply to both immigrant and nonimmigrant foreign nationals.
  • The previous COVID-19 regional bans restricted both entry and visa issuance. The Nov. 26 proclamation makes the Department of State (DOS) responsible for implementation “as it applies to visas pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may establish.” The agencies have not yet issued guidance confirming the process will be the same.
  • The proclamation will not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, spouses and close family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, those traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government to help mitigate the COVID-19 virus, air and sea crew, noncitizens whose entry is deemed in the national interest, and a limited number of others. The full list is available here.

Additional Information: Under rules that took effect Nov. 8, foreign nationals are generally permitted to enter the U.S. if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The restrictions on travel from the eight countries in Southern Africa will apply regardless of vaccination status, however. President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday that the restrictions were imposed “as a precautionary measure until we have more information” about the Omicron variant.

BAL Analysis: The immigration agencies are expected to issue additional guidance on how they will implement the proclamation, including the “national interest” exception standard. BAL will continue to monitor implementation of the new restrictions and will provide updates as information becomes available. BAL continues to urge foreign nationals to consult their BAL professional before planning international travel as travel restrictions may change with little notice and could affect the ability of travelers to re-enter the U.S.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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