COVID-19 Information (Last updated: October 20, 2020)
The South African Ministry of Health has confirmed 705,254 cases of COVID-19 within its borders. The government of South Africa lowered the lockdown alert level for South Africa to level 1 on September 20, 2020. COVID-19 health and safety protocols must 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. Retail shops and services, supermarkets, churches, pharmacies, schools and most businesses have resumed operations in line with safety protocols. Indoor gatherings are limited to less than 250 people and outdoor gatherings to 500 people. Employees are instructed to work from home where possible. For detailed information, visit the Government of South Africa’s Covid19 Risk Adjustment Strategy.
Entry and Exit Requirements:
Are U.S. citizens permitted to enter? U.S. citizens are permitted to enter South Africa with a valid South African visa or prior approval from the Minister of Home Affairs Office. U.S. citizens may also enter South Africa without a South African visa for tourism purposes if they can prove they have been in a non-COVID high risk country for at least 10 days preceding entry into South Africa. Please refer to dha.gov.za/index.php/list-of-high-risk-covid-19-countries for the latest list of South Africa-designated high risk countries (updated biweekly).
On October 4, 2020, the government of South Africa reinstated “visa exemption” for citizens of a limited number of countries, including the United States (http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/statements-speeches/1376-home-affairs-minister-dr-aaron-motsoaledi-provides-an-update-on-the-partial-re-opening-of-borders-and-services-during-alert-level-1). As of October 01, 2020, travel into and out of South Africa is allowed for business, leisure, and other travel. However, types of travel are restricted to and from certain countries that are considered high risk, which currently includes the United States. Visit http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/statements-speeches/1373-statement-of-the-minister-of-home-affairs-regarding-the-reopening-of-borders-and-services-during-alert-level-1 for more information. As international commercial flights resume, please do not plan travel to South Africa until you contact the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate in the United States or country you are currently in to determine entry restrictions. We currently have no information regarding the resumption of regular commercial flights; travelers should contact individual airlines for up-to-date schedules.
For business travelers, please see the current guidelines for individuals coming from high-risk countries (including the United States), as found in the statement on reopening borders and in the Government Gazette:“Any person from a country listed as having a high COVID-19 infection and transmission rate, who wish to undertake a business travel into South Africa, may with effect from 01 October 2020, in writing, apply to the Minister of Home Affairs and demonstrate reasons for their request to enter the Republic for business purposes during the period of the national state of disaster.Such applications must be directed to email Covid19BusinessTravel@dha.gov.za and supported by:
- a copy of passport and/or temporary residence visa;
- proof of business activities to be undertaken in the Republic;
- proof of travel itinerary; and
- proof of address or accommodation in the Republic.
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 that expired after February 15, 2020 through to January 31, 2021. Holders of such visas are permitted to remain in the country under the conditions of their visas until the end of January. Those wishing to be repatriated to their countries within this period can depart without being declared “undesirable persons.” Under Alert Level 1, DHA has resumed visa services, including applications submitted through VFS Global, for certain visa categories found in this announcement. 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
- Is a curfew in place? Yes
Under Alert Level 1, the curfew will apply from midnight until 0400 daily, except where a person has been granted a permit by officials.
- Are there restrictions on intercity or interstate travel? No
- Are U.S. citizens required to quarantine? Yes
Anyone entering South Africa will be screened upon arrival and required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Quarantine may be in a designated facility and/or as self-quarantine at home. Guidelines for quarantine and isolation in relation to COVID-19 are available on the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) website at https://www.nicd.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Guidelines-for-Quarantine-and-Isolation-in-relation-to-COVID-19.pdf
- If you think you have contracted the virus, call the South African NICD helpline (0800 029 999) and you will be advised on nearby testing facilities. However, testing is not routinely conducted unless recommended by a health professional, therefore you may need to be assessed by your medical practitioner in order to qualify for testing. Visit https://www.gov.za/coronavirus/faq for further resources.
- Are commercial flights operating?
Limited domestic and international air travel is operating within South. Prospective permitted travelers will only be able to use one of the land border posts that have remained operational during the lockdown or one of the three main airports: King Shaka, OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airport.
- Several airlines are operating repatriation flights for South Africans returning home and foreign nationals leaving South Africa. For information on repatriation flights departing South Africa, please see our most recent alerts at https://za.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/security-and-travel-information/.
- 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 sanitised before picking up and after dropping off passengers.
Fines for Non-Compliance:
- None for individuals. South Africa Police Services and local authorities are responsible for enforcement of business operation regulations.
- Effective March 26, 2020, U.S. Consulates General Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban have suspended routine consular services during the South African government’s multi-stage lockdown.
- 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.
View U.S. Embassy Pretoria’s most recent alerts
President Ramaphosa’s statement regarding Alert Level 1
Ministry of Home Affair’s statement on reopening borders
Information about travel for individuals from high-risk countries in the Government Gazette
Department of Home Affairs page for latest information on travel requirements for South Africa
COVID-19 Corona Virus: South African Resource Portal and data free portal (no data or airtime to needed for access)
Department of State Country Information and Travel Advisory page
Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website on the latest travel restrictions to the U.S