The US will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel in November, ending a 19-month freeze due to the Covid-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the US and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic.
The new rules, announced by homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the US regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November.
Mayorkas said in a statement the administration next month “will begin allowing travellers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for Covid-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings.”
A similar easing of restrictions is set to kick in for air travel into the country, allowing entry to fully vaccinated passengers from the UK and most EU countries. By mid-January, even essential travellers seeking to enter the US, like truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.
Lawmakers from US border states praised the move to lift the unprecedented restrictions, which have harmed the economies of local communities and prevented visits to friends and families for 19 months.
Both Mexico and Canada have pressed the US for months to ease restrictions on travel that have separated families and curtailed leisure trips since the onset of the pandemic.
Canada on began allowing fully vaccinated US visitors for non-essential travel on 9 August.
The precise date in early November when the restrictions will be lifted will be announced “very soon”, one official told Reuters.
According to the officials, travellers entering the US by vehicle, rail 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 US, no testing will be required to enter the US by land or sea, provided the travellers meet the vaccination requirement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US will accept travellers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the US. That means that the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in Canada, will be accepted.
Officials said the CDC was still working to formalise procedures for admitting those who received doses of two different vaccines, as was fairly common in Canada.
The delay in the vaccination requirement for essential cross-border travel is meant to provide truck drivers and others with additional time to get a shot and minimise potential economic disruption from the vaccination mandate, officials said.