Starting next month, the United States will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to cross its land borders for non-essential purposes such as tourism or visiting friends and family.
This change will allow tourists from abroad to travel through the United States via land and ferry ports, for the first time since March 2020. Officials from the government have yet to announce a date, but they said that it would take place “early November” in conjunction with the updated international air travel system.
“This is an important step that will further enhance the safety of international travel and the safety of Americans at home,” senior administration officials said in a call with reporters. “These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
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What is the secret to it?
Wednesday’s update follows the White House’s Sept. 20 announcement saying the U.S. would implement a new international air travel system in “early November,” Foreign travelers are welcome with COVID-19 vaccines approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration or World Health Organization to enter the country.
“We desire to be consistent in our approach to land and air entry into the country. Senior administration officials stated that this was the next step in bringing them into alignment.
The new land border travel restrictions will be broken into two phases, both of which introduce vaccine mandates:
- Phase 1 The first phase will go into effect in “early November” and allows fully vaccinated travelers to enter the U.S. for nonessential reasons. Unvaccinated travelers can only travel to the U.S. for essential purposes in this phase.
- Phase 2 Travelers will not be allowed to travel across the border for non-essential reasons. The second phase of immigration will start in January. In either phase, there will not be any testing.
Senior administration officials stated that the phased approach would allow essential travellers like truckers to be vaccinated in sufficient time, which will facilitate a seamless transition to the new system.
Specific dates for each phase have not yet been released. The current travel restrictions – which are set to end on Oct. 21 – will be extended until the new policy goes into effect. Current restrictions on travel to the United States are limited to essential travel, such as for work or trade.
► US air travel:In November, foreign travelers who have received the COVID-19 vaccinations from FDA and WHO are allowed to enter the USA.
► Canada travel:Canada offers a lot of opportunities for travelers who have been vaccinated. However, you should be vigilant and ready to jump through many hoops.
Where can you show proof that you have been immunized?
U.S. Customers and Border Protection will enforce the new travel requirements and will spot-check travelers’ proof of vaccination documents. For foreign nationals to be able to enter, they will require the appropriate travel documentation.
The foreign traveler will have the option to either show their vaccination status on paper or electronically. In the next few days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide an update as to what type of documentation is accepted at borders.
► Land border travel restrictions:Through Oct. 21, the US will extend land border restrictions to Canada and Mexico
► Passport status:Although wait times have fallen, travelers still need to wait months.
What vaccines are accepted?
Government officials haven’t announced which vaccines will be accepted at the borders.
If the land and ferry borders follow the new air travel system’s lead, foreign nationals should be able to cross with vaccines that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or World Health Organization. These include:
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
It’s not clear whether travelers who have received mixed doses will be able to enter the U.S., but officials said the CDC is “working through” that question for both land and air travel.
Why not now?
The actions from U.S. officials come months after Canada’s decision to reopen its land borders to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents on Aug. 9.
The U.S.’s hold on its American travel restrictions on Canada has drawn backlash, given Canada’s high vaccination rates. The Canadian population has 73% coverage, which is compared to the 57% of Americans and 38% for Mexico. According to Johns Hopkins University Medicine, Canada boasts 73%.
“We’ve been working for weeks … on a plan to do this safely and not increase the risk to Americans,” a senior administration official told reporters. “We have seen increased vaccine availability – obviously in Canada, which now has very high vaccination rates, as well as in Mexico. … We think this system will make it safer both for Americans over the long run.”
► Canada travel:Starting Monday, vaccinated Americans will be able to enter Canada. These are the 11 essential things you need to know before your trip.
Follow Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY’s reporter on Twitter @bailey_schulz