The United States will reopen its land borders to non-essential travel in November, ending a 19-month freeze due to the Covid-19 pandemic as the country prepares to demand that all international visitors be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Vehicle, train and ferry travel between the United States and Canada and Mexico has been largely limited to essential travel, such as commerce, since the early days of the pandemic.
The new rules, announced Tuesday by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the United States regardless of the reason for travel from early November.
Mayorkas said in a statement that the administration next month “will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including visiting friends and family or for tourism, by land and border crossings by ferry.
A similar easing of restrictions is expected to come into effect for air travel within the country, allowing entry for fully vaccinated passengers from the UK and most EU countries. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the United States, such as truck drivers, will need to be fully immunized.
Lawmakers in U.S. border states have hailed the move to lift unprecedented restrictions, which have hurt the economies of local communities and barred visits to friends and families for 19 months.
“Since the start of the pandemic, members of our common cross-border community have felt the pain and economic hardship of closing land borders. This pain is about to end, ”Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
Mexico and Canada have both lobbied the United States for months to ease travel restrictions that have separated families and reduced leisure travel since the start of the pandemic.
Canada began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for non-essential travel on August 9.
The precise date, in early November, for the lifting of the restrictions will be announced “very soon,” an official told Reuters.
The new rules only apply to legal entry into the United States.
Officials have warned that those seeking to enter illegally will still face deportation under the so-called Title 42 authority, first invoked by former President Donald Trump, which has drawn criticism from supporters of the immigration for returning migrants before they could apply for asylum.
One official said the United States is continuing its policy as cramped conditions at border patrol facilities pose a threat from Covid-19.
According to officials, travelers entering the United States by vehicle, train and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of the standard US customs process.
Unlike air travel, for which proof of a negative Covid-19 test is required before boarding a flight to enter the United States, no testing will be required to enter the United States by land or sea. , provided that travelers meet the vaccination conditions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those used in states. -United. This means that the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in Canada, will be accepted.
Officials said the CDC is still working to formalize admission procedures for those who have received doses of two different vaccines, as was fairly common in Canada.
The delay in the vaccination requirement for essential cross-border travel is intended to give truck drivers and others more time to get vaccinated and to minimize potential economic disruption to the vaccination mandate, officials said. .
The vaccination requirement for foreign nationals comes as the White House has moved to impose sweeping vaccination or testing requirements affecting up to 100 million people in the United States in a bid to encourage recalcitrant people to withdraw. get vaccinated.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Labor completed the initial draft of an emergency regulation that will require employers of 100 or more workers to require their employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or tested weekly. The order is being revised before its implementation.
Mexico has no Covid-19 entry procedures in place for travelers. Canada allows entry of people with proof of Covid-19 vaccination as well as proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of entering the country.
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report