In response to the COVID-19 “Omicron” variant outbreak unfolding in several southern African regions, President Biden has issued a Proclamation that, effective November 29, 2021, suspends entry into the U.S. for certain nonimmigrants who were physically present in Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe during the fourteen (14) day period preceding their entry or attempted entry.
U.S. citizens, as well as the following classes of noncitizens, are exempt from the travel ban:
- any U.S. lawful permanent resident (green card holder);
- any noncitizen U.S. national;
- 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;
- any noncitizen traveling at the invitation of the U.S. Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
- any noncitizen traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any noncitizen otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew;
- certain foreign government officials and NATO employees bearing visas issued in the A, G, or NATO categories;
- any noncitizen who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or who is a spouse or child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces;
- any noncitizen whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee; or
- any noncitizen whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.
The Proclamation mandates that the Secretary of Homeland Security establish procedures to prevent restricted noncitizens from boarding U.S.-bound aircraft. Further, any restricted noncitizen who, through fraud, misrepresentation, or illegal entry, attempts to circumvent the restriction, shall be prioritized for removal.
As stated above, the Proclamation will take effect on November 29, 2021. It will not apply to any person who boarded a U.S.-bound flight that departed prior to 12:01am EST on November 29, 2021. The Proclamation shall remain in effect until terminated by the President.
The Outside GC Immigration Team strongly advises its corporate clients to discourage their restricted noncitizen employees from traveling to the aforementioned regions until President Biden terminates the Proclamation. If such travel is unavoidable, the employee should be prepared to remain abroad for an extended period.
As the U.S. government learns more about the transmissibility and lethality of the Omicron variant, additional travel bans may be issued against other affected regions. The Outside GC Immigration Team will provide additional updates and advice on an ongoing basis.