SA Chamber USA went to Washington DC on 9 December 2021 to meet with Government Stakeholders and Businesses to discuss the issues surrounding the travel ban affecting South African workers. We handed over a petition to the South African Ambassador and the Embassy to get South African Executives (L-Visa) and Agricultural workers (H2-A) back in 2022. We are working tirelessly to get relief for vaccinated South Africans with a negative PCR test to travel to the USA under the current travel ban.
The president of the South African Chamber of Commerce in the USA, Neil Diamond said that “We are working tirelessly to get our South African Agricultural Workers, Business people, Academics and Students to get back to the USA.” He handed over the first petition on behalf of the coalition of Farm Agents, SA Recruiters, and the SA Farm Worker Association to Ambassador HE Nomaindiya Mfeketo. The collective group petitioned the Embassy and Government of South Africa to raise an objection in the strongest terms against the ongoing travel ban on South Africans traveling directly to the USA.
The South African Chamber of Commerce in the USA handed over a second petition on 10 December 2021 on behalf of the South African business community, South African Academics, and South African Students in the US. The collective group with L1-A, L1-B, and F-1 visas also petitioned the Embassy and Government of South Africa to raise an objection in the strongest terms against the ongoing travel ban on South Africans traveling directly to the USA.
The travel ban imposed by President Biden on November 26, 2021, has had a significant economic impact on South African Agricultural Workers with H2A visas. These workers would require a National Interest Exception to return for the 2022 season. Their contribution to US food security is undeniable. SA Chamber USA requested the Embassy and Government of South Africa to escalate this matter to the White House. The Travel Ban was applied unilaterally without regard for the true nature and origin of the Omicron variant. South Africa and seven other Southern African nations were singled out for a travel ban when in fact the new Omicron variant has been present in Europe since October 2021. There is no justification for keeping South and Southern Africa in isolation with the current facts on the table. The South African Chamber of Commerce in the USA as the voice of the South African diaspora that includes the South African Agricultural Workers petitioned for the immediate and unconditional removal of the Travel Ban on South African Travelers.
After meeting with various US government and private sector stakeholders to escalate the petition by SA Chamber USA and the SA Farm Workers Association to the White House and State Department, our Ambassador, along with other Southern African Ambassadors, met with the State Department. They are working tirelessly to support Southern Africans affected by the Travel Ban. We take note of the UK’s intention to lift some travel restrictions this week and continue to work towards the USA following suit. Neil Diamond and June Cartoon are in ongoing discussions with all stakeholders to overturn the travel ban.
These discussions are bearing fruit as agricultural stakeholders in the United States (US) have requested that South African farmworkers be exempt from the travel ban, and allowed to enter the country, ahead of the critical growing season.
“Many of these H-2A workers have a unique skillset, and American farmers are counting on their timely arrival as they make plans for their upcoming growing seasons,” noted an open letter, supported by more than 60 agriculture groups, addressed to President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday.