Travel Restrictions and New Requirements for Air Travel

Just as the world breathed a sigh of relief for the easing of almost 18 months of travel restrictions, just as quickly did the feelings of dismay wash over viewers when it was revealed in Empire Strikes Back that Vader was Luke’s father, in one of the greatest plot twists in cinema. In a similar plot twist, the Biden Administration reinstated a regional travel restriction focused on Africa only less than one month after easing them.

As the worldwide regional travel restrictions imposed on inbound travel to the U.S. were lifted as explained in our November 8, 2021 blog post, U.S. Land Borders Reopens To Non-Essential Vaccinated Travelers November 8, and in our October 15, 2021 blog post, COVID-19 Vaccinations Lead to November 8 Reopening of U.S. to Foreign Travelers and Land Border Restriction Modifications, the new regional travel restriction on eight African countries became effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on November 29, 2021 and will remain in effect until lifted by the President.

Presidential Proclamation 10315, Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019

As reported in various news reports, as a result of the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 first reported in South Africa and a concern by the World Health Organization, this new regional travel restriction suspends the entry of certain noncitizens traveling as immigrants or nonimmigrants who were present in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe during the 14-day period prior to their entry or attempted entry into the United States, with some exceptions.

Similar to the prior travel restrictions, PP10315 does not apply to:

  • S. Citizens;
  • Lawful Permanent Residents;
  • Noncitizen national of the United States;
  • 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;
  • Additional limited exemptions as described in Presidential Proclamation 10315.

National Interest Exception

Under the previous proclamations, there was some relief afforded to foreign citizens in the form of a National Interest Exception (NIE), as described in one of our many blog posts, State Department Expands National Interest Exceptions for Nonimmigrants Subject to Presidential Proclamation 10052.  However, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (US CBP) has stated in their CBP Memo dated November 28, 2021, that any NIE granted to a noncitizen under previous proclamations are void. This also extends to F-1 student and J-1 exchange visitor visa holders who were automatically granted NIEs in the past.

New Requirements for Air Travel

In an attempt to increase protection resulting from the emerging Omicron variant of COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has imposed more stringent requirements for air travelers. Effective December 6, 2021, prior to boarding an international flight to the United States, all air travelers aged two and older must show documentation of a negative viral test result taken within one day of the flight’s departure to the U.S. This requirement extends to all people regardless of their nationality (includes U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents) or their vaccination status.

Any traveler who has recently recovered from COVID-19 before the flight’s departure from a foreign country, may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e., positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country, and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).

The CDC has posted a helpful infographic, Traveling to the United States from a Foreign Country By Air, which provides guidance on testing and vaccination requirements.

Finally, as a reminder, all noncitizen, nonimmigrants traveling from a foreign country on an international flight bound to the U.S. must be fully vaccinated, with limited exception. For details, please refer to our blog post, U.S. Land Borders Reopens To Non-Essential Vaccinated Travelers November 8. As we’ve seen with this virus, changes quickly occur and information is fluid. Stay tuned with Dickinson Wright for up-to-date information.

Update: the new regional travel restriction on the 8 African countries imposed on November 29, 2021 was subsequently lifted on December 31, 2021.


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About the Author:

Suzanne Sukkar is a U.S. Business Immigration Attorney at the law firm of Dickinson Wright PLLC. Her practice focuses on global workforce mobility, employment-based sponsorship and visa matters, immigration audit and compliance for corporate and individual clients across a vast array of industries. Suzanne renders expert strategic and tactical counsel to a broad clientele base including visa matters for client’s employees at all levels of the corporate organizational structure, from the highest level executives, to the entry-level business professional, investors, extraordinary ability workers, outstanding researchers and professors, musicians, artists and athletes, and more. She developed a niche expertise in the area of E treaty trade and investor visas, consular processing, and start-up ventures. Through strategic planning and by offering creative solutions, she has assisted with the seamless transfer of numerous workers worldwide. She may be reached in our Ann Arbor office at 734.623.1694. Visit Suzanne’s bio here.