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  • The USA is due to lift travel restrictions on foreigners – including South Africans – in November.
  • We don't yet know exactly when in November.
  • Other details are also yet to be announced, but we do know the vaccines used in South Africa will be accepted.
  • Here's what we do, and do not, know about America reopening to South African travellers.
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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 US since late January, with that country citing the prevalence of the 501Y.V2 variant of Covid-19 first detected in the Eastern Cape as reason for caution. A series of national interest exemptions cracked open the doors over the intervening months, but only for the likes of much-needed tractor drivers and au pairs.

Now travellers from nearly three dozen countries, including SA, will again be able to apply for visas as before, with specific coronavirus requirements.

Here is what we do and don't know about the lifting of American restrictions on South African travellers.

When in November? The White House isn't saying

As of Thursday, the best available guidance on when the restrictions will be lifted remains "November".

If a decision has been made about what day in November the rules will actually change, that has not yet been disclosed.

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

Travellers to the US will be required to show proof of vaccination. Exactly which vaccines the country will accept is still to be formalised, but its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the list will include both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson options used in South Africa.

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

For those currently allowed, there is also the option to show you have had the coronavirus, by way of "documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from Covid-19 in the 90 days preceding travel".

It is not clear if that option will be retained.

Unvaccinated people (and maybe those with acquired immunity) will be barred unless they are American citizens.

You will still need a test

The requirement for a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than three days before departure will be retained, the US government says.

There is a theoretical system to get a waiver on the test requirement at present, but that requires a dire emergency along the lines of an urgent medical evacuation.

There are no exceptions for those who test positive.

You won't have to quarantine

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

That includes self-isolation, which will not be demanded of those granted entry to the US.

There are, however, fears that may change by November, depending on how bad things get in the Northern Hemisphere winter.

Your airline will handle your contact details 

The US is putting in place a tracing system for airline passengers found to have potentially been exposed to the coronavirus in transit, after they arrive. 

How exactly that will work is not yet clear, but airlines will be required to gather telephone numbers and email addresses, and hand those over to the American government. 

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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