After banning foreign travelers from eight countries in southern Africa due to the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the United States will roll back those restrictions starting December 31, 2021. 

What countries are will be re-opened to travel to the US? 

Foreign nationals who had spent the previous 14-days in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, eSwatini, Mozambique and Malawi have not been allowed to travel to the United States since November 29, 2021.

News of the rollback was first reported by Reuters and confirmed on Twitter by White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz, who said the decision was recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted,” Munoz tweeted. 

US Travel Advisories: Where US citizens are advised not to travel 

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Silhoetted travelers at airport
United States will lift travel restrictions on foreign nationals from 8 countries in southern Africa © Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

Omicron is now the new dominant variant

The White House has been under pressure to explain why it continued to restrict travel from those countries in southern Africa as the variant has become widespread in the United States. The Omicron variant has quickly become the dominant strain in the US as the CDC's director Dr. Rochelle Walensky reporting this week that Omicron is the cause for up to 90% of new reported cases of COVID-19 in some parts of the United States.

Along with restricting travel from eight countries in southern Africa, the Omicron variant also spurred the US to tighten its testing requirements.

What will you need to enter the US from one of the 8 southern African countries? 

Travelers to the United States, including vaccinated citizens, need to present proof of a COVID-19 test taken within one day of travel. Prior to that change, vaccinated travelers could test within three days of departing for the US, while unvaccinated passengers were required to test within one day. 

Your Omicron/COVID-19 travel resource hub

Use our guide for helpful, up-to-date information when planning your travel during the pandemic.

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