SA’s trip to the US reopens (at some point) in November – here’s what we do and don’t know yet




  • The United States is expected to lift travel restrictions on foreigners – including South Africans – in November.
  • We don’t know exactly when in November yet.
  • Further details have not yet been announced, but we do know that the vaccines used in South Africa will be accepted.
  • Here’s what we know and don’t know about America’s reopening to South African travelers.
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At some point in November – we don’t yet know exactly when – America will reopen its borders to South Africans.

South Africans have generally been banned from entering the United States since the end of January, with the country citing the prevalence of the 501Y.V2 variant of Covid-19 first detected in the Eastern Cape as a reason for caution. A slew of national interest exemptions opened the doors in the months that followed, but only for much needed tractor drivers and au pairs.

Now travelers from nearly three dozen countries, including South Africa, will once again be able to apply for visas as before, with specific coronavirus requirements.

Here’s what we do and don’t know about lifting US restrictions on South African travelers.

When in November? The White House does not say

From Thursday, the best indication available on when the restrictions will be lifted remains “November”.

Whether a decision has been made as to when in November the rules will actually change, that has yet to be disclosed.

Your vaccine will be acceptable – but we don’t know if a recovery certificate will count

Travelers to the United States will need to show proof of vaccination. The exact vaccines the country will accept have yet to be formalized, but its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed that the list will include both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson options used in South Africa.

Two weeks should elapse between vaccination and travel, after the second dose in the case of Pfizer, or after the single dose of J&J.

For those currently licensed, there is also the option of showing that you have had the coronavirus, by means of ‘documentation from a licensed healthcare provider that you have recovered from Covid-19 in the 90 days prior to trip “.

It is not clear whether this option will be retained.

Unvaccinated people (and perhaps those with acquired immunity) will be banned unless they are U.S. citizens.

You will still need a test

The requirement for a negative Covid-19 test performed no more than three days before departure will be maintained, according to the US government.

There is currently a theoretical system for obtaining a waiver of the testing requirement, but this requires extreme urgency of the type of urgent medical evacuation.

There are no exceptions for those who test positive.

You won’t have to quarantine

There is no intention to quarantine arriving passengers for any length of time.

This includes self-isolation, which will not be required of those authorized to enter the United States.

There are, however, fears that could change by November, depending on the severity of the winter in the northern hemisphere.

Your airline will manage your contact details

The United States is implementing a tracing system for airline passengers potentially exposed to the coronavirus in transit, after their arrival.

It’s not yet clear how exactly this will work, but airlines will be required to collect phone numbers and email addresses, and turn them over to the US government.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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