U.S. Announces Travel Restrictions From 8 Countries of Southern Africa

U.S. Announces Travel Restrictions From 8 Countries of Southern Africa

UPDATE: 12/29/2021: Effective December 31, 2021, the travel restrictions to the U.S. from the 8 countries of Southern Africa will be revoked. For details, please click here.
ALL travelers are subject to fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and a negative COVID-19 test no more than 1 day prior to air travel to the U.S. See guidance here.

On November 26, 2021, U.S. President Biden issued a Proclamation (Presidential Proclamation 10315) that suspends boarding a flight and/or entry to the United States by non-U.S. citizens who have been physically present in any of the following countries within the immediately prior 14 days:

  • Republic of Botswana
  • Kingdom of Eswatini
  • Kingdom of Lesotho
  • Republic of Malawi
  • Republic of Mozambique
  • Republic of Namibia
  • Republic of South Africa
  • Republic of Zimbabwe

The effective date of this Proclamation is at 12:01 am Eastern U.S. Standard Time on November 29, 2021.  The Proclamation will remain in effect until terminated by the U.S. President.

The restrictions are a response to the identification of a new COVID “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization. 

The full text of the Proclamation may be viewed here.

This Proclamation does NOT apply to the following:

  • U.S. citizens
  • any lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) of the U.S.
  • any noncitizen national of the United States;
  • any noncitizen who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • any noncitizen who is the parent or legal guardian 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;
  • any noncitizen who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • any noncitizen who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • plus additional identified exemptions (please read the text of the Proclamation for the full list of exempt individuals)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has confirmed that currently NO “National Interest Exemption” (NIE) to this new Proclamation has been designated for student (F visa) or exchange visitor (J visa) status holders.
A CBP advisory document, issued on November 28, 2021, confirmed the following:
*”Any NIE (National Interest Exemption) granted to a noncitizen under previous proclamations are void with respect [to] the Proclamation of November 26, 2021.”
*Any future NIE that may be granted under this new proclamation “will not exempt a traveler from testing and/or vaccination requirements under the CDC testing and vaccination orders or Title 19 nonessential travel restrictions.”

While we have seen NIE designated for past travel bans/restrictions for F and J visa holders, usually they have not been designated until some time after the initial implementation of the restrictions. There is no guarantee an NIE will be designated for this proclamation. The MIT ISO and ISchO will be sure to notify the community when updates are issued by USDHS, USDOS, USCBP, or the White House.

Under the proclamation, any individual who has been physically present in one of the designated countries within the past 14 days would need to travel to another country, not subject to the restrictions, and be physically present in that other country for a period of at least 14 days, before they would be allowed to enter the U.S. 

A statement by U.S. President Joe Biden on the Omicron COVID-19 Variant can be viewed here

UPDATE 12/03/2021: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has posted an infographic “Traveling to the United States from a Foreign Country By Air”, that provides helpful guidance on vaccination and testing requirements needed to enter the U.S.: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/pdf/requirements-travel-to-us-by-air-quick-reference-p.pdf

The “Major Immigration Alerts & Updates” webpage will continue to be updated as additional information becomes available.  Please do not hesitate to contact your advisor in the MIT ISO or ISchO with any questions.

Separate from this announcement on the new Proclamation, international students and scholars are advised to review additional guidance on travel provided by the MIT International Students Office (ISO) “Travel Guidance – Fall/Winter Break 2021-2022” here (issued 11/19/2021) and guidance provided by the MIT International Scholars Office.