In a proclamation issued Monday, President Biden banned travelers from entering the United States if they recently spent time in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, the Schengen Area, or South Africa. Citing its goal of curbing the spread and health impact of COVID-19, particularly novel strains of the virus arising in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK, the new administration is requiring travelers to spend 14 days in a third country before transiting to the United States. The travel restrictions take effect today, January 26, 2021.

The proclamation does not apply to the following travelers to the United States:

  • US citizens
  • Lawful permanent residents (or "green card" holders) and their spouses
  • Noncitizen nationals
  • The spouse of US citizens, lawful permanent residents, and noncitizen nationals
  • The parent or legal guardian of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident who is unmarried and under the age of 21
  • The sibling of an unmarried US citizen or lawful permanent resident who is unmarried and under the age of 21
  • The child, foster child, or ward of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, or a prospective adoptee entering pursuant to IR-4 or IH-4 visa classification
  • Travelers invited by the US government "related to containment or mitigation of the virus"
  • Air or sea crewmembers traveling as pursuant to C-1, D, or C-1/D visas

In addition, the Biden administration highlighted that noncitizen members of the US Armed Forces and their spouse and children; noncitizens who further US law enforcement objectives; and other noncitizens whose entry into the United States would serve the country's national interest are exempt from the travel restrictions. We are monitoring whether the Biden administration will issue new guidance as to what constitutes a national interest exception.

The proclamation constitutes an effective reversal of a proclamation issued by former President Trump in his final days of office. Though the prior administration argued that travel restrictions from Europe and Brazil were no longer necessary, the Biden administration disagreed. This new proclamation underscores the new administration's focus on containing COVID-19, particularly after continuing a new CDC requirement that all travelers to the United States obtain a negative COVID-19 test or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 within three days of boarding their flight, which also went into effect today.

We expect governments across the globe to continue restrictions on travel and entry in the coming weeks, as the current trend is, as reported yesterday, for countries to require negative COVID-19 test results to gain entry to foreign countries.

Originally Published by Mayer Brown, January 2021

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