COVID-19 Information

COVID-19 Information

Last updated: October 22, 2021

For non-U.S. citizens seeking information about current travel restrictions affecting travel to the United States, please see https://za.usembassy.gov/visas/

*** Effective January 26, all airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel. Alternatively, travelers to the U.S. may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel. Check the CDC website for additional information and Frequently Asked Questions.

Can I get and exemption or waiver to the testing requirement?
Waivers to the testing requirement may be granted by the CDC on an extremely limited basis when extraordinary emergency travel (like an emergency medical evacuation) must occur to preserve someone’s health and safety, and testing cannot be completed before travel.  There are no waivers available for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.  Individuals – or air carriers seeking to allow boarding by potentially qualifying individuals – who believe they meet the criteria for a waiver should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at CDC-Test-Waiver-SA  and provide the information below.  The U.S. Embassy or Consulate will then submit the request to the CDC for consideration.

The following information must be provided for each passenger:

  1. Name (family name/surname, given name), passport number and country
  2. Cell phone number including country code of passenger or head of household if family unit
  3. Email address of passenger or head of household if family unit
  4. U.S. destination address
    • Is U.S. destination home address?
  5. Departure date
  6. Flight itinerary
  7. Name of submitting entity if different from passenger
  8. Name of company submitting on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)
  9. Name of point of contact submitting on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)
  10. Phone and email address for POC submitting waiver request on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)
  11. Purpose of travel to the U.S. (provide brief explanation of why urgent travel is needed and how travel will contribute to health and safety of passengers(s))
  12. Justification for testing waiver (e.g. no testing available, impact on health and safety)
  13. Documentation to support justification for test waiver, if available (e.g. medical records or orders for medical evacuation)
Country-Specific Information

The South African Ministry of Health has confirmed more than 2,906,422 cases of COVID-19 within its borders. The government of South Africa updated the lockdown alert level for South Africa to adjusted level 1 on September 30, 2021. The level 1 lockdown maintains several COVID-19 preventative regulations including mandatory masks in public places (with penalties for non-compliance), however, the relaxation of restrictions include, a nationwide curfew each day from 00:00 to 04:00, all gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 750 people indoors and 2000 people outdoors, the sale of alcohol for offsite consumption will resume, and interprovincial and international travel is allowed. Restaurants and eateries will continue to operate while observing strict health protocols. Certain other venues, such as gyms and fitness centers, also remain open, but will need to close by 11:00.

COVID-19 health and safety protocols must continue to be followed at all times, including observance of guidelines for social distancing of 2 meters, sanitation and hygiene, and use of appropriate personal protective equipment, like cloth face masks, as determined by the South African National Department of Health. Many retail shops and services, supermarkets, pharmacies, and businesses continue to operate in line with safety protocols, but will be strictly enforcing mask rules. For detailed information, visit the Government of South Africa’s Covid-19 Adjusted Alert Level 1 Regulations.

Five stages of Lockdown

COVID-19 Testing
  • Are PCR and/or antigen tests available for U.S. citizens in South Africa? Yes.
    • PCR testing is widely available. There are some private enterprises running COVID-19 testing with a price around $80-100 USD.
  • If so, are test results reliably available within 72 hours? Yes.
    • PCR test results are generally available with 72 hours, in line with CDC regulations. However, there are some reports of test results taking longer than 72 hours, and some testing laboratories only guaranteeing results within 3-5 days. U.S. citizens should check with the facility or laboratory for specific information on how long on average it takes to receive results.
    • Information on where and how to obtain a COVID-19 test:
      • Locations: Hospitals will generally only conduct COVID-19 tests for incoming patients in possession of a doctor’s letter. The U.S. Embassy does not recommend any specific testing facilities, but is aware of several providers, including: Ampath Laboratories, NextPathology Biosciences, Lancet Laboratories, Dis-Chem Pharmacy, PathCare, Epicenter, Biosmart Laboratories, Travel Doctor, and some urgent care / day clinics like Intercare. Several testing sites offer a drive-through option, while others have private appointments. Please check with testing centers for more information.
      • Payment: Public sector testing is free of charge; however, this option is not available for testing for travel purposes only. At private testing facilities, U.S. citizens must pay for their COVID-19 test; it is not covered by the South African government. Verify payment options with the testing facility. Inquire with the respective laboratory to verify their testing costs and requirements. It is advisable to check with your health insurance to ascertain if they will cover the costs for the test.
      • Cost: Average cost for a COVID-19 PCR test is $50-60 USD (R850.00). Some private testing enterprises may charge up to $80-100 USD.
  • Delivery of Results: Most testing facilities will return test results electronically by email and text message.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information:
  • Has the government of South Africa approved a COVID-19 vaccine for use? Yes.
    • South Africa has received a portion of its vaccine doses and has started vaccinating frontline healthcare workers. More doses are on the way to South Africa with plans for expanding vaccination capacity.
    • According to South African authorities, the country has a vaccination strategy and is currently in the process of procuring vaccines through three channels: through the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility, through the African Union’s vaccine initiative and through direct engagements with vaccine manufacturers. The health ministry announced that it is in advanced negotiations with Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer on acquiring additional doses.
  • Are vaccines available in South Africa for U.S. citizens to use? Perhaps.
    • Vaccine availability in South Africa is still limited by the number of available doses. Currently, nearly all available vaccine doses are reserved for healthcare workers. South Africa has stated that it plans to vaccinate everyone in South Africa regardless of citizenship.  We are aware that some U.S. citizens over the age of 60 have been vaccinated in South Africa.
    • Registration open for 12-17 year olds.
    • Further information: Please see South Africa’s vaccine strategy for COVID-19 HERE and continue to monitor South Africa’s vaccination rollout plan.
  • Which vaccines are available in South Africa?
  • Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
  • The United States Government does not plan to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to private U.S. citizens overseas. Please follow host country developments and guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination or visit this page for more information.
  • Information from the CDC regarding COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Visit the FDA’s website to learn more about FDA-approved vaccines in the United States.

Entry and Exit Requirements:
  • Are U.S. citizens permitted to enter? Yes.
  • On November 11, 2020, President Ramaphosa announced that the Government of South Africa would open up international travel to all countries subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative COVID-19 certificate. On February 28, 2021, President Ramaphosa announced that 20 land border crossings will be open with valid PCR or antigen tests required for entry while some 33 land border crossings will remain closed.
  • Negative COVID-19 Test Required: Any travelers to South Africa will need to present a negative COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours from the time of departure, or will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost if they have not done a COVID-19 test.
  • Visa Information: For foreigners present in South Africa, the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) announced new directives extending the validity of legally-acquired visas or permits until the end of December 2021 for holders who have not departed South Africa since the announcement of the National State of Disaster in March 2020, and arrived with a valid visa between December 2019 and 14 March 2021.  Holders of such visas are permitted to remain in the country under the conditions of their visas until the end of December 2021. Those wishing to be repatriated to their countries within this period can depart without being declared “undesirable persons.”  The extension does not apply to people who entered the country from 15 March 2021. The normal validity period of visas of people admitted into the country from 15 March 2021 applies. Please note that it is incumbent on the individual to contact DHA for details about the visa extension process. If you are an American citizen in South Africa wanting more information on prospective travel to the United States, please ensure you are enrolled in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the most current information.  The U.S. Mission to South Africa’s American Citizen Services will send any updates to the public by email through STEP, which is the U.S. Department of State’s central platform for mass email communication.
  • Is a negative COVID-19 test (PCR and/or serology) required for entry? Yes.

    • On arrival, travelers will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours from time of departure.
    • Where a traveler has not done a COVID-19 test prior to departure, they will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost.
    • All travelers will be screened on arrival and those presenting with symptoms will be required to remain in quarantine until a repeat COVID-19 test is conducted.
    • All travelers will be asked to install the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app.
  • Are health screening procedures in place at airports and other ports of entry? Yes.

Movement Restrictions
  • Is a curfew in place? Yes.
    Under Alert Level 1, the curfew will apply from 0000 until 0400 daily.
  • Are there restrictions on intercity or interstate travel? No                                          
Quarantine Information:
  • Are U.S. citizens required to quarantine? No.
    • On arrival, travelers will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours from time of departure.
    • Where a traveler has not done a COVID-19 test prior to departure, they will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost.
    • All travelers will be screened on arrival and those presenting with symptoms will be required to remain in quarantine until a repeat COVID-19 test is conducted.
    • All travelers will be asked to install the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app.
Transportation Options
  • Are commercial flights operating? Yes.
    • Domestic and international air travel is operating within South Africa. Prospective travelers will only be able to use one of the land border posts that have remained operational during Alert Level 1 or one of the five open international airports including the three main airports: King Shaka, OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airport.
    • Please contact airlines directly for flight information and booking.
  • Is public transportation operating? Yes.
      Public rail, minibus taxi, and bus services have resumed at reduced levels subject to social distancing and mandatory use of face masks for passengers and drivers. Minibus taxis and buses must reduce their maximum licensed passenger seating capacity to 70% a vehicle, e-hailing services that are licensed to carry up to four passengers are limited to carrying 50% of their permissible passenger carrying capacity. Transport services are required to provide adequate sanitizers for washing of hands of all passengers. Operators must ensure that their vehicles are sanitized before picking up and after dropping off passengers.
Fines for Non-Compliance:
  • There are fines and possible imprisonment (up to 6 months) for non-compliance of mandatory mask wearing in public places. South Africa Police Services and local authorities are responsible for enforcement of business operation regulations.
Consular Operations:
  • U.S. Consulates General JohannesburgCape Town, and Durban have resumed  consular services at limited capacity.
  • American Citizen Services:  Should you require emergency American citizen services at your nearest U.S. Consulate in South Africa, please write or call using contact information at https://za.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/emergency-contact/.
  • Visa Services:  The United States Embassy and Consulates in South Africa remain unable to resume routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa services at this time.  We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date.  The MRV fee is valid and may be used to schedule an interview appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment. If you have an urgent matter and need to travel immediately, please follow the guidance provided by our Visa Appointment Service or call our call center at +27 (0) 87 550 2160 to request an emergency appointment.
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