U.S. Borders with Canada and Mexico Have Reopened
After the unprecedented closing of its borders to all nonessential travel in March 2020, the U.S. opened its land borders on November 8, 2021, to fully vaccinated foreigners for nonessential travel such as to visit family or for tourism. This is welcome news to merchants and businesses located along the borders, as many have been especially hard hit with the reduction of cross-border business. The economic damage along the border has been severe in many areas. Many Canadians have been waiting to drive south to their homes in Mexico. These Canadians and Mexicans who have been unable to visit their families living north of the border have also breathed a sigh of relief that the end of the restrictions are here.
For the last nineteen months, travel to the U.S. via land or ferry crossing has been limited to those travelers deemed by the U.S. as “essential.”
How Does the U.S. Define Essential Travelers?
According to the U.S. Embassy’s Travel Restriction FAQ sheet:
- Citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States.
- Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States).
- Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions.
- Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada or Mexico in furtherance of such work).
- Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies).
- Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada and Mexico).
- Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel.
- Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.
Here’s what you need to know.
As of November 8th, 2021, the land and ferry crossings will be open to all travelers, including those deemed “nonessential,” i.e., those “traveling for tourism purposes, such as sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events in the United States.” Nonessential travelers will need the proof of vaccination. It is expected that sometime in early January there will be a requirement for all foreigners to submit proof of vaccination. The delay for essential travelers is to allow them time to get vaccinated.
Which vaccines are accepted for “fully vaccinated” status?
The U.S. has said the accepted vaccines will include FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approved or authorized and WHO (World Health Organization) Emergency Use Listing vaccines. Those vaccines are the following:
- Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen
This list can change as new vaccines become available. Visit the WHO website for an up-to-date list of vaccines currently approved.
What if I have had mixed vaccines?
The CDC clarified that fully vaccinated travelers who have received mixed doses of approved vaccines will be allowed in, stating, “Individuals who have any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series are considered fully vaccinated.”
What is the process for entering the U.S. through a land border or ferry crossing?
As you enter the U.S. at the border with either Canada or Mexico, you will be questioned by the Customs and Border Protection officer about your vaccination status. CBP officers have the discretion to check your documents. It will probably be easiest to just hand your proof of vaccination to the officer at the same time you hand him/her your passport. The CBP officers also have the discretion to send you to secondary inspection to have your vaccination documents verified, something all of us hope to avoid, if possible. Foreign nationals still need the appropriate travel documentation to enter the U.S. in addition to proof of vaccination.
What type of proof will be accepted?
The U.S. will accept both paper and digital proof of vaccination. How to obtain digital proof of vaccination (commonly called “vaccine passports”) varies by country, and by state within the U.S. Many countries have developed apps that can be downloaded to your mobile phone. A helpful round-up of information regarding vaccine passports can be found on the BBC website. If you live within the U.S., you can Google search “vaccine passports” and your state’s name for more information.
Is a negative Covid test required to enter the U.S. by land?
No. At this time, there is no negative Covid test required to enter the U.S. either by land border or ferry crossing.
The requirement of a negative Covid test for entry via air is still in effect.
Do essential travelers need proof of vaccination?
Not currently. Travelers deemed “essential” (e.g., students, truck drivers, essential workers, etc.) will still be allowed to enter the U.S. as they have been since the closure began in March 2020. However, beginning sometime in January, the U.S. will be requiring proof of vaccination for all foreigners who cross the land borders, i.e., both essential and nonessential travelers.
U.S. authorities are still working out the details for this reopening plan and expect to provide travelers with all the information they need well in advance of the November 8th reopening date. This article will be updated as new information becomes available.
As it now stands, you can start making your travel plans to hit the road in November. Don’t forget that Mexpro is here to provide for all your insurance needs.