The United States will open its land borders to all travelers next month. This is in addition to the 19-month-old freeze caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, only essential travel such as trade and commerce was allowed to be done by vehicle, rail, and ferry between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Wednesday’s new rules will allow foreigners who have been fully vaccinated to enter the U.S., regardless of their reason for travel. This change is expected to take effect in November when similar restrictions will be lifted for air travel. Even essential travelers, such as truck drivers, who wish to enter the U.S. will need to be fully immunized by mid-January.
Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security Secretary, said that he was happy to take steps to resume regular travel in safe and sustainable ways and applauded its economic benefits.
Canada and Mexico have been pressing the U.S. for months to relax travel restrictions that have caused separation of families and reduced leisure travel since the outbreak of the pandemic. This latest move comes after the U.S. announced last month that it will no longer ban travel by country and require foreign nationals to get vaccination before they allow them to travel.
Late Tuesday, senior administration officials had seen the new policy on land borders. The officials confirmed that both policies will be in effect by early November.
The new rules will only be applicable to legal entry into the U.S. However, officials cautioned that illegal immigrants may still be expelled under Title 42 authority. This authority was first invoked by President Donald Trump. It has been criticized for removing migrants quickly before they can apply for asylum. One official stated that the U.S. is continuing this policy because of the COVID-19 threat posed by cramped conditions at border patrol facilities.
As part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s standard admissions process, travelers arriving by rail, ferry or vehicle will need to provide proof of vaccination. Travelers may have their proof of vaccination checked in secondary screening at the discretion of officers.
Contrary to air travel, where proof of a negative COVID-19 is required to board a flight, there will not be any testing required to enter the U.S. via land or sea. As long as travelers comply with the vaccination requirements.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that Americans will accept travelers who are fully vaccinated. This includes those who have received two vaccines.
Officials explained that the delay in the mandatory vaccination for cross-border travel is to allow truck drivers and other road users more time to get their shots and to minimize any disruptions from the mandated vaccination.
The new procedures are moving towards a policy that is based on risk profiles of individuals and not less targeted countries-based bans.
The vaccination requirement for foreign nationals comes as the White House has moved to impose sweeping vaccination-or-testing requirements affecting as many as 100 million people in the U.S. in an effort to encourage holdouts to get shots.
The U.S. Department of Labor has completed Tuesday’s initial draft of an emergency regulation requiring employers with 100 or more employees to require their employees to be tested for COVID-19 every week or vaccinated. Before the order is implemented, the Office of Management and Budget will be reviewing it.
After a spike in the more transmissible delta strain of the virus, COVID-19 cases have fallen to around 85,000 per day in the U.S., indicating that the government is making efforts to restore regular travel. For the duration of the pandemic the per capita cases in Canada and Mexico were markedly lower than in the U.S., which exacerbated frustrations over U.S. travel restrictions.
Mexico does not have any COVID-19 travel procedures. Canada allows fully-vaccinated persons to enter the country with proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and proof that a negative test was performed within 72 hours.