With the first confirmed death among 12 in Alabama, updated list of countries where visas are not granted
Travellers from the outbreak-stricken nations of India, Myanmar, Vietnam and Nigeria are not being allowed to travel to the US under any circumstances.
There has been a growth in calls for the US to review visa requirements, but the move in response to the Omicron variant flu outbreak has sparked criticism from both sides of the aisle.
“It’s just a real shame the government’s going in the wrong direction – and that’s the immigration side,” said House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a letter to the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.
“The only other places in the world that prohibited travel to the US were a small number of countries around the world where we suspended visas, where there were actual law violations, so this country is applying global travel curbs to countries that are actually cooperative in the fight against this virus.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it was reclassifying 22 countries as “countries of concern”, and their citizens no longer have access to the US.
These countries are India, Vietnam, Myanmar, China, Venezuela, North Korea, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia. At the same time as it overhauled its visa screening, the US has also taken “greater caution when applying for other types of visas,” the DHS said.
The agency’s secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, said that holders of H-1B visas, which are highly coveted by tech companies, were not affected, as this visa type was not tied to travel restrictions. Nor would holders of senior class L visas, which are issued to countries not on the list of “countries of concern”.
The move follows the Omicron variant strain (OVS) outbreak in the US, which has led to the deaths of a dozen people, with a further 380 infected with the H3N2 strain.
In India, the Minister of Health, and Family Welfare, Dr Jual Oram, said: “The decision taken by the US government is unlikely to come in favour of the health of millions of Indians travelling to the US every year, who also in most cases fall ill in the US and would need to be discharged immediately.”