The United States plans to ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors from Mexico and Canada beginning in early November, relaxing bans that have been in place for more than 18 months, according to senior administration officials.
The new rules are similar to those announced for international air passengers and will be implemented in stages. The first phase will begin in early November and will allow visitors fully vaccinated for non-essential reasons, such as visiting friends or for tourism, to cross the US land borders. The second phase, which will begin in early January 2022, will apply the vaccination requirement to all incoming foreign travelers, whether they are traveling for essential or non-essential reasons.
“These new vaccination requirements implement the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of covid-19 and will create a strict and consistent protocol for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States, whether by land or by air, “a senior administration official told reporters.
The United States limited non-essential land travel along its borders with Canada and Mexico at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions have been extended monthly. Air travel between the US and those countries has been possible. The restrictions do not apply to cross-border trade, US citizens and legal permanent residents, as well as people traveling for medical reasons or to attend school, among others.
The last set of restrictions will expire on October 21. Senior administration officials said the limits on cross-border travel will remain in effect until the date due to being disclosed in November.
A Trump-era public health order allowing the swift removal of more than 958,000 migrants will also remain in effect. Those restrictions, while also based on public health, are necessary because of concerns about migrants in congregated settings when they undergo processing, authorities said.
The travel restrictions had come under intense scrutiny from lobbyists, lawmakers, and border mayors who implored the Biden administration to tighten limits to accommodate the evolving landscape.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul welcomed the news Tuesday night. “I applaud our federal partners for reopening our borders to Canada, something I have called for since the beginning of the lockdown,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “Canada is not only our business partner, but more importantly, Canadians are our neighbors and friends.”
New York Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat representing a Buffalo-area district, also commented on the decision, saying that “the strong vaccination rates in Canada made the continued closure of the border absurd and unjustifiable.”
“For months, we have heard from businesses that are suffering and families distressed by the separation imposed by the continuous closure of the border. The sigh of relief coming from the communities of the Northern Border after this announcement is so strong that it is practically possible to listen to the end of the Bridge of Peace “.
When asked about the timeline for reopening the borders, the White House has repeatedly pointed to interagency task forces that formed over the summer. Overseen by the White House Covid-19 response team and the National Security Council, the groups included representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) alongside officials from the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation.
US officials also partnered with representatives from the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Mexico.
“We have seen increased availability of vaccines in Canada, which now has very high vaccination rates, as well as in Mexico. And we wanted to have a consistent approach to entry both by land and by air into this country, so this is the next step to align them, “said the senior administration official.
The United States previously told Canadians that the Biden administration wanted to keep rules symmetrical at both land borders, a source familiar with the discussions told CNN, despite different situations at both borders and inconsistencies with air travel rules.
The U.S.-Mexico border has faced an influx of migrants that has exceeded resources, prompting some concern among U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials about easing travel restrictions at the border. South while increasing staff to help with the surge in migrants.
Customs and Border Protection will be tasked with enforcing the recently announced vaccination requirement, including searching for certificates of vaccination status and spot-checking travelers to verify vaccination status by print or digital means, according to another senior official with the administration. There will be no covid-19 testing requirement.