The United States will restore its land borders to non-essential travel next month, ending a 19-month closure caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, as the government prepares to require all overseas visitors to be coronavirus-vaccinated.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, vehicle, train, and boat travel between the United States, Canada, and Mexico has been limited to essential transit, such as trade.
Starting in early November, when a similar relaxation of restrictions is expected to take effect for air travel into the country, the new regulations, which will be published on Wednesday, would enable fully vaccinated foreign people to enter the United States regardless of their reason for travel. Even critical passengers seeking entry to the United States, such as truck drivers, will be required to be completely vaccinated by mid-January.
On the condition of anonymity to talk ahead of the formal announcement, senior administration officials gave a sneak peek at the new policy late Tuesday.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic, both Mexico and Canada have urged the United States to loosen travel restrictions that have divided families and limited leisure visits. The new step comes after the US said last month that it will abolish country-based air travel prohibitions and instead require foreign people seeking entry by plane to be vaccinated.
Both rules will go into force in early November, according to authorities. They didn’t provide a specific date.
The new regulations apply exclusively to legal entrance into the United States. Officials warned that individuals attempting to enter the country illegally will still face deportation under the so-called Title 42 power, which was first utilized by former President Donald Trump and has been criticized by immigration groups for removing migrants before they can claim asylum. According to one of the authorities, the strategy is being maintained because overcrowding in border police facilities poses a COVID-19 concern.
Travelers entering the United States by car, train, or ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of the normal US Customs and Border Protection admissions procedure, according to officials. Travelers’ evidence of vaccination will be checked in a secondary screening process at the discretion of officers.
Unlike air travel, where confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test is required before boarding a flight to enter the United States, no testing will be required for passengers entering the United States by land or sea as long as they fulfill the immunization requirements.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States will accept visitors who have been completely vaccinated with any of the World Health Organization-approved vaccinations for emergency use, not only those used in the United States. This implies that the commonly used AstraZeneca vaccination will be approved.
Officials said the CDC was still working on formalizing rules for admitting people who had had two separate vaccination doses, as was typical in Canada.
The delay in the vaccine requirement for necessary cross-border travel is intended to give truck drivers and others more time to be vaccinated and reduce the possible economic impact of the mandate, according to authorities.
Overall, the new processes move away from less targeted country-based prohibitions and toward a policy based on individual risk profiles.
The foreign national vaccination demand comes as the White House moves to implement sweeping vaccination-or-testing requirements that may affect up to 100 million individuals in the United States in an effort to persuade holdouts to receive vaccinations.
The US Department of Labor completed the first draft of an emergency regulation on Tuesday that would compel companies with 100 or more employees to require COVID-19 vaccination or testing on a weekly basis. The directive is now being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget before it is put into effect.
COVID-19 entrance rules for tourists have not been implemented in Mexico. Individuals who are completely vaccinated against COVID-19 and have confirmation of a negative test done within 72 hours of entering the country are allowed to enter Canada.