As 2021 comes to an end, the White House and the Department of State have announced:

  1. South African Travel Restrictions Lifted.

The 14-day travel restrictions on southern African countries will be lifted as of midnight on December 31, 2021. Adopted on November 29th, the restrictions based on spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant have been in effect for travelers from Botswana, Eswantini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The requirements that all travelers to the United States, unless otherwise excepted, must be fully vaccinated and present a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of travel remain in effect.

  1. New Waivers of In-Person Visa Interviews.

To help ease the nonimmigrant visa backlogs, consular officials will have the discretion to waive in-person interview requirements for some with H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q USCIS-approved petitions until the end of 2022. The eligibility requirements for those who were previously issued a visa in the same category are:

  • No visa refusals, unless the refusal was overcome or waived
  • No apparent or potential ineligibility
  • Must be applying in their country of nationality or residence

For those applying for the first time for the visa category:

  • Must be a citizen or national of a Visa Waiver country
  • No apparent or potential ineligibility
  • Previously travelled to the U.S. on ESTA

The discretionary interview waiver has also been extended until the end of 2022 for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (e.g., F, M, and academic J applicants), for those applying for H-2 (temporary agricultural or non-agricultural) visas, and for those who are renewing any visas within 48 months of expiration.

Because consular resources and COVID-19 restrictions vary, applicants should check the relevant embassy or consular website to confirm available services.

  1. Expired U.S. Passports Can Still Be Used.

Citizens can continue to use expired U.S. passports to return to the U.S. until March 31, 2022. To be eligible, the individual must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be currently abroad
  • Be flying directly to the United States, a U.S. territory, or have only a short-term transit, or connecting flight, through a foreign country on their return to the United States
  • Have been issued and possess an expired, undamaged passport that was originally valid for 10 years or, if 15 years of age or under when the passport was issued, the original validity must be for five years

Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to advise you on these new procedures. We wish you a happy new year!