Omicron Impact: What To Expect When Traveling To The US

The after effects of Omicron, a deadly variant is fast impacting travel across all countries. Originated in South Africa, this is considered a highly transmissible variant of the Covid-19 virus. As soon as the World Health Organization (WHO) named the Omicron variant as a Variant of Concern (VoC), most countries have taken action and imposed restrictions of varying degrees both across borders as well on international travel. Similarly, the United States of America has announced a tightening of travel rules to and within the country.

Earlier, the US imposed a travel restriction on any one who was originating travel from South Africa and seven other at-risk countries.

Recent Changes To US Travel

  • Starting Monday, December 6, 2021, all in-bound international passengers will have to test for Covid within 24 hours of departure. Earlier it was 72 hours of departure. 
  • Mandatory mask requirement has been extended to all domestic flights and public transportation including rail travel and transportation hubs like airports and indoor bus terminals through March 18, 2022.
  • All foreign travelers entering the United States have to be fully vaccinated with the complete series of the Covid-19 vaccinations.
  • A negative Covid test, 24 hours prior to boarding a US bound flight is mandatory for everyone regardless of nationality or vaccination status.
  • This means, irrespective of immigration status these rules are applicable to all US citizens, green card holders and non-immigrant visa holders entering the country from anywhere.
  • Anyone not complying by the above rules will face a monetary fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders. This will be imposed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

More Information On The New US Travel Restrictions: White House Proclamation

Travel Ban

The most recent travel ban has been imposed on South Africa and seven other at-risk countries that first detected the Omicron virus. This means travel is completely restricted for most foreign nationals who have been physically present in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, or Zimbabwe in the 14 days preceding their entry into the US.   

Is There An Exemption From The Omicron Travel Ban?

While a stricter travel ban and allied rules are being implemented this time, there are some exemptions. US citizens and permanent residents, and their spouses and minor children or siblings, are allowed to enter the US while this proclamation remains in effect. For now, this travel restriction is until March 18, 2022 but may be extended to a further date.  

Additionally, individuals including non-citizens of the US who are considered to benefit the national interest, individuals who have been invited to the US to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, air and sea crew, and a few other select categories are also exempted from this travel ban.  

Other countries

UK, Japan, Israel, Philippines, Australia among others have also restricted travel and imposed border closures across the board. All travelers who have plans of international travel should consult the Embassy of the respective country before embarking on any travel.

India Travel: New Guidelines

Beginning December 1, 2021 all international passengers must submit a self-declaration form to an online government portal called Air Suvidha. This will also demand a 14-day travel history and a negative RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to their departure.

Travelers from countries deemed “at risk” will also now face further testing and surveillance, including a repeated PCR test on arrival. They will also have to quarantine at home for seven days.

Per the Proclamation issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, the following “at-risk” countries are included in the restrictions – 

  • South Africa, 
  • Botswana, 
  • Zimbabwe, 
  • The United Kingdom,
  • Brazil,
  • Bangladesh,
  • China, 
  • Mauritius, 
  • New Zealand, 
  • Singapore, Hong Kong and 
  • Israel.

Safety Tips For Parents Visiting The US

When the United States lifted the last travel, many made quick plans to travel to the US. Combined with this, the holiday season triggered many families to reunite after being separated due to the pandemic. This included parents and senior travelers. Parents living abroad especially are looking forward to be able to visit their children living in the US. However, omicron and its related travel restrictions imposed by the US has put a wrench in these plans. Parents and senior travelers should exercise extra caution during the pandemic to ensure safety when traveling. 

Omicron Impact: What To Expect When Traveling To The US

The following tips are useful for senior travelers or parents visiting the USA – 

  • Plan your itinerary well in advance so as to ensure that all the above requirements are addressed.
  • If you already have tickets booked for your US bound travel, call the airline directly and confirm that the airline is still flying the day of your trip. Several flights will be rescheduled in light of the omicron travel restrictions across different countries.
  • If you have a transiting flight, contact your flight agent as well as the embassy of the transiting country to confirm that entry form that country into the US is still an option. US has imposed travel bans against several countries.
  • Get the complete series of the Covid vaccination.
  • Get a Covid test done 24 hours before departure to the US. It is mandatory irrespective of vaccination status.
  • Always wear a N95 mask and a face shield when in closed spaces like the airport or the flight.
  • Some airlines may offer a PPE kit that acts as an additional layer of protection over your dress when in flight.
  • Maintain social distancing and a basic distance where ever possible.
  • Avoid touching too many surfaces during your flight. Carry alcohol wipes and sanitizers to ensure protection.
  • You may be asked to take the Covid test again on arrival into the US. either a nose swab or thermal testing may be conducted.
  • Have all addresses and contact information of the families you will be visiting and staying with when in the US. This will be asked for in order to pursue contact tracing.
  • Always get travel medical insurance before traveling abroad. There are several travel medical insurance options that can help vaccinated seniors.

Travel rules are constantly changing and it is important to stay on top of it in these turbulent times. Path2USA will keep you abreast of latest news and guide you on everything related travel