President Joe Biden has rescinded COVID-19-related travel restrictions that were imposed in late November on eight African nations. The rescission, which took effect at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time on December 31, was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prompted by concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant, the President had issued a proclamation on November 26 that imposed travel restrictions on U.S.-bound travelers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa (where the Omicron variant was first detected), and Zimbabwe. The proclamation, with few exemptions and exceptions, barred entry to the United States of non-U.S. citizens, immigrants, or nonimmigrants, who had been in any of these countries 14 days or less before their entry or attempted entry.

The President stated the following reasons for revoking the November 26 proclamation:

Since I issued [the original] proclamation, our Nation’s health officials, in collaboration with the South African scientists who originally reported the variant, have made substantial progress in understanding the Omicron variant. Importantly, scientific experts have determined that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the Omicron variant. Moreover, the Omicron variant has now spread to more than 100 countries, and it is prevalent in the United States. At the same time, my Administration has made international travel to the United States from all countries safer in the time since I issued [the original proclamation, including generally applicable rules requiring] noncitizens to be fully vaccinated, . . . and for travelers to wear face masks on commercial conveyances and at United States transportation hubs.

Current vaccination and testing requirements

As we reported in the bulletin linked above, all persons traveling to the United States continue to be subject to the COVID-19 vaccination requirements under Proclamation 10294 and the testing and travel requirements issued by the CDC.

The current testing and travel requirements are as follows:

  • All international travelers inbound to the United States (including vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents) must present proof of a negative COVID test taken no earlier than one day before their planned departures.
  • Unvaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents must, in addition, present proof of purchase of a viral test to be taken upon entry into the United States.
  • Foreign nationals must, in addition, present proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Other developments

Consistent with the revocation of the African travel ban, the U.S. Department of State has announced that as of January 1, the issuance of visas to individuals who were subject to the ban would no longer be prohibited but that the current vaccination and testing requirements remained in effect. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has made a similar announcement.

The State Department guidance also addresses applicants whose visa applications “were refused solely due to their presence in a country covered by a regional COVID proclamation…” Those applicants were advised to “contact the embassy or consulate where they made the application to request reconsideration.”

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