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COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Reinstated and Expanded to South Africa

28 Jan

On Monday, January 25, 2021, President Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation that reinstated COVID-19 travel restrictions for certain non-U.S. citizens traveling from the Schengen area, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Brazil, or South Africa to the U.S. These travel restrictions will remain in effect indefinitely, subject to review by the Secretary of Health and Human Services every 30 days. 

Similar travel restrictions that have been in place since March 2020 were very recently rescinded by former President Trump in his last week in office. The reinstatement and expansion of the COVID-19 travel restriction is a mitigation effort to curtail the spread in the United States of several new, highly contagious variants of the coronavirus that have been spreading rapidly among the countries including in the restriction. 

Restricted Passengers and Exceptions 

Foreign nationals who have been physically present in the Schengen area, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Brazil, or South Africa within the past 14 days before boarding a flight to the U.S. will not be permitted to board unless they fall under one of the exceptions outlined in the proclamation. U.S. citizens are not subject to the proclamation. The proclamation outlined the following exceptions

  • Any U.S. lawful permanent resident; 
  • Any foreign national who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident; 
  • Any foreign national 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 foreign national who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried an under the age of 21; 
  • Any 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 seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications; 
  • Any foreign national traveling at the invitation of the United States government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus; 
  • Any foreign national traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any alien otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew; 
  • Certain foreign nationals whose travel is covered by Section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement; 
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, spouses, and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces; or 
  • Certain foreign nationals who are determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services not to pose a significant risk, who are determined by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to be needed for a law enforcement purpose, and certain foreign nationals whose entry is determined to be in the U.S. national interest. 

Other Travel Restrictions to the U.S. Remain in Place 

In addition to the travel restrictions on the Schengen area, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa, earlier Presidential Proclamations imposing travel restrictions remain in place.  Accordingly, travelers who have been physically present in Iran or China (other than Hong Kong and Macau) within the 14 days prior to travel are prohibited from entering the United States. Similar exceptions apply for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents and certain other categories of travelers, including those whose travel to the United States would be in the national interest.   

Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test Required for Entry to U.S. 

As a reminder, proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required before a traveler may board a plane to the United States.  Pursuant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirement, all travelers to the United States, including U.S. citizens, must present proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of boarding a flight for the United States. 

Travel to Other Countries 

The United States is not the only country implementing travel restrictions. Governments continue to warn citizens against international travel, with many other countries continuing to limit or restrict incoming international travelers.  The restrictions vary by country and may impact only some travelers or travelers from certain countries.  As restrictions of this nature continue to be implemented, the risk of traveling internationally persists as travel restrictions may also include required COVID-19 testing, mandatory quarantine before or after entry, or an outright travel ban resulting in few or no available flights. 
Foster will continue to monitor developments in connection with all new and continuing COVID-19 related travel restrictions and policies under the new administration and will make future updates available on our firm’s website at