U.S. Citizens Town Hall Note

Call Summary:  Virtual U.S. Citizen Town Hall with
Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales & Colleagues
April 2, 2020, 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM

On Thursday. April 2, 2020, at 4:00 PM, the U.S. Embassy held a virtual town hall over a call-in line with U.S. citizens in Lesotho.  U.S. citizens on the call heard updates from Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales as well as other personnel from the U.S. Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State Department’s Regional Medical Office, and the U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Office.

U.S. citizens who are interested in further details from the call are encouraged to contact usconsularmaseru@state.gov.

Please Note:  The charter flight originally planned for Monday April 6 has been delayed due to logistical issues.  The U.S. Embassy now anticipates that the charter flight will leave Wednesday, April 8, but this is not yet confirmed.  Please contact usconsularmaseru@state.gov for latest information.

Charter Flight for U.S. Citizens

  • The U.S. Embassy is working to bring a charter flight to evacuate U.S. citizens. If any U.S. citizen is interested in leaving Lesotho on this flight or has any questions, please email usconsularmaseru@state.gov.
  • Given present realities, we cannot promise when or if another charter flight will be available. If you are thinking about leaving, we recommend you take this opportunity.
  • The exact departure time, cost of the flight, and even the departure date are still subject to change. There are many logistical challenges and requirements to bring in a charter.  We will make details about the flight known as soon as we have them.
  • The flight departing Maseru will make at least one regional stop and travelers may be required to change planes to an onward charter organized by the U.S. government. During the transfer between planes, passengers will probably not be allowed through customs or out of the international terminal.
  • Since charter passengers will be restricted to the terminal, they will only be able to bring carry-on baggage. No checked baggage will be permitted.

U.S. Embassy Open Only for Emergency U.S. Citizen Services

  • The U.S. Embassy is on minimal staffing but is open for urgent U.S. citizen services like emergency passport renewals.
  • S. Embassy personnel are observing Lesotho’s lockdown orders and working from home.
  • All Peace Corps Volunteers have evacuated from Lesotho.
  • Some U.S. Embassy personnel and their families have evacuated Lesotho. Others are planning to depart as circumstances allow.
  • Please review the Department of State’s Global Health Advisory from March 31, 2020/ https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/travel-advisory-alert-global-level-4-health-advisory-issue.html

South Africa Requiring Visas for U.S. Citizens; Road Travel through South Africa Inadvisable

  • South Africa now requires visas for U.S. citizens. To get a visa, U.S. citizens must apply at the South African High Commission in Lesotho.
  • South Africa is strictly enforcing its lockdown. We do not advise travel by land through South Africa.
  • South Africa’s airports are closed to commercial passenger traffic. Some cargo and charter flights are being allowed to land, but crews and passengers are restricted to their landing terminal and must transit onwards without entering South Africa.  We do not know when South Africa’s airports will reopen to commercial travel.  We do not know whether flights scheduled to travel after the end of South Africa’s lockdown period will resume.
  • South Africa’s lockdown is supposed to end at midnight on April 16.
  • South Africa may extend its lockdown period.

Questions from U.S. Citizens:

  • Question: If we leave on the charter flight, when might we be able to return?
    Answer:  We do not know at this time.  South Africa’s and Lesotho’s lockdown periods may be extended.  Whether you stay or go, plan on being in that location for the foreseeable future.
  • Question: On the charter flight, how many seats will be available?  How much will they cost?  And what time will the flight leave?
    Answer:  There are a lot of moving parts to organizing charter flights, including number of available spaces, departure times, stops, etc…The cost will be related to the number of people who go, and we’ll update those who are interested as soon as we have the information.  If you are interested, please email usconsularmaseru@state.gov as soon as possible.  We will provide updates when available to those who expressed interest
    One thing to add—if you want to go on the charter, please be packed and ready.  We may get the information about the departure at the last minute.
    And a reminder—only hand luggage.  No checked luggage will be possible.
  • Question: Will seats on the flight be open to family members of U.S. citizens who are not themselves citizens?
    Answer:  Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs)—in other words, green card holders—will be permitted.  Family members who are not LPRs, but who hold valid visas may also be permitted.  Please email usconsularmaseru@state.gov  and we can discuss the specifics of your case.
  • Question: My visa expires soon.  I can’t cross the border to renew.  What should I do?
    Answer (Consular):  Please contact Lesotho’s Ministry of Home Affairs for questions relating to visas in Lesotho.  There is a residency permit available.  However, all of Lesotho’s ministries, including Home Affairs, are on skeleton crews.  If you don’t get a response from Home Affairs, email usconsularmaseru@state.gov and we’ll see if we can assist.
  • Question: We are supposed to fly out of Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport at the end of the month.  What should we do?
    Answer:  OR Tambo and South Africa’s other airports are closed to commercial passenger aircraft.  Flights are cancelled.  Whether they will resume after the end of South Africa’s lockdown period is unknown.  So, we recommend that if you need to return home, take the charter flight.  We do not recommend waiting to see if you can fly out of South Africa later.
  • Question: Will a future charter flight be possible?
    Answer:  Capacity to arrange charter flights is strained globally.  The Department of State has recommended that those who want to go and who can go should depart now, because leaving later may be much more difficult. If you are on the fence, we recommend you leave now.  We cannot promise future charters will be available.