Its been three months since President Joe Biden announced the US would be banning all South African travellers from entering the states due to the threat of the 501Y.V2 or South African variant of Covid-19.
Now the Biden administration has expanded its list of National Interest Exceptions (NIE) for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security. The update will exempt certain South Africans with specific skills, jobs, and visas from the current travel ban.
Under the US expanded National Interest Exceptions list, all H-2A visa holders (non-immigrant certification for temporary workers performing agricultural services) will be allowed to enter the country. This is particularly good news for South Africans, who hold the most H-2A visas second to Mexicans.
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Further exemptions include South Africans holding valid immigrant or fiancé(e) K-1 visas. This also applies to foreign citizens who are sponsored by direct relatives living in the US or by a prospective US-based employer. It also allows a foreign-citizen to travel to the US and marry his or her US citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival.
Exemptions for Exchange Visitors include:
- Au pairs providing specialised care for minor US citizens with special needs including medical, special education, or sign language. This also applies to au pairs who take care of children whose parents are frontline healthcare workers or medical researchers involved in Covid-19.
- South Africans who are enlisted in bilateral exchange programmes which are “designed to promote US national interests.”
- Interns and trainees on US government agency-sponsored programs.
- Specialised teachers, who hold a degree equivalent to a US bachelor’s degree in either education or the academic subject field in which they intend to teach. Applicants must have at least two years of experience and must be fluent in English.
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