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President Biden Issues New Regional COVID Public Health Travel Ban for Several African Countries due to Omicron Variant

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Omicron Variant

In response to the Omicron variant, President Joseph Biden has given a presidential proclamation imposing a COVID-19 public health travel ban. Which prohibits the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry of foreign nationals. Who have been physically present in the following Southern African nations within 14 days of their travel to the United States: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The ban restrictions take effect at 12:01 am EST on 29th November 2021 and will remain in place until terminated by the President.

Travel ban exceptions and implementation due to Omicron Variant

Those exempt or excepted from the new regional travel ban will be allowed to travel to the United States. Only if they comply with the new vaccination and testing requirements recently imposed for international air travel. People exempt or excepted from the Southern African ban include:

  • U.S. residents and nationals;
  • U.S. lawful permanent residents;
  • Spouses of U.S. residents and lawful permanent residents;
  • A foreign national who is the parent or legitimate guardian of an unmarried U.S. resident or lawful permanent resident under the age of 21;
  • A foreign national who is the sibling of a U.S. resident or lawful permanent resident, if provided they are both unmarried and under 21;
  • Foreign national who is the child, foster child or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Or who is a prospective adoptee looking to enter the United States on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa;
  • 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;
  • A foreign air or sea crewmember;
  • Certain A, C, E-1 (TECRO or TECO workers), G, and NATO nonimmigrants. Or whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement;
  • A foreign national whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives;
  • A foreign national whose entry would be in the national interest; and
  • Individuals from the U.S. armed forces and their spouses and children.

New Regional Travel Ban

The criteria and norms for the “national interest exception” under this new regional COVID travel ban are not yet known; it is expected that the State Department will give guidance soon. It should not be assumed that national interest exceptions given under earlier regional bans. (For travel from South Africa, India, China, Brazil, and a few European nations, among others) will be valid under the new Southern African COVID travel ban.

Under earlier regional bans, if a foreign national were subject to the ban and didn’t qualify for an exemption. The State Department would not give a visa to that person. The U.S. government might take a similar situation with respect to the new Southern African regional ban. And refuse to give a visa unless a foreign national qualifies for an exception.

What This Means

Your association should work quickly to identify foreign employees who might be affected by the new regional Omicron variant COVID ban. Also, contact your designated professionals to discuss available options. Which could include urgent travel back to the United States, if possible, or alternative plans outside the United States.

[Changes to Work Authorization for E, L-2, and Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses]

New rules for international air travelers remain in effect for the people who qualify for any of the exemptions for the Southern African COVID ban. These rules have been in effect since November 8 and require COVID vaccination and testing. For most foreign nationals traveling to the United States.

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