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Client Alert: New US Travel Bans Prompted by New COVID Variant Omicron


Barely three weeks after the long-awaited lift of the country-based travel bans in favor of vaccine mandates, the COVID omicron variant has partially shut US borders again, this time to travelers from eight African countries.

On November 26, as a precautionary measure, the Biden Administration introduced travel restrictions affecting travelers who, within 14 days of their desired entry into the United States, have been physically present in any of the following: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, or Zimbabwe. Much like some of its predecessors, the new travel ban does not have a set expiration date and can only be terminated when the Administration takes the affirmative step of rescinding it.

Similar to some of its predecessors, the ban contains a number of categories of visitors that are exempt from its application. As expected, US citizens, permanent residents, their spouses and unmarried children are not subject to the new restrictions and may continue to travel. Air and sea crew members traveling pursuant to C-1 or D visas will also continue to be eligible to enter the United States, along with certain special visa category holders, usually performing work for NATO, the United Nations, or foreign government missions in the United States. Finally, and in a familiar fashion, the ban provides an exception for those non-citizens whose entry into the United States will be in our national interest. While the criteria for these national interest exceptions (NIEs) are not yet known and are yet to be defined and set by the administration, it is unlikely that the Administration will overhaul the NIE standards and framework preceding bans relied upon. The Department of State is expected to release guidance on the NIE criteria soon.

Many other countries have also shut their borders to travelers from the southern African region as well as increased testing and quarantine procedures for permitted travelers. At the time of this alert, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Denmark, Egypt, Fiji, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Maldives, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, and the United Kingdom have announced increased travel restrictions.

Stories of stranded travelers have been reported as flights were canceled, so it is imperative to reiterate that international travel is still extremely risky for the foreseeable future. Employers should quickly identify staff members that may be affected by the new travel ban and consult with their immigration counsel to formulate a plan. Klasko Immigration will monitor developments and provide updates as they happen.

Please contact your Klasko Law attorney with any questions on this new development.  

The material contained in this alert does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.  An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation.  The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

© 2021 Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP.  All rights reserved. Information may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP.  For permission, contact

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