United States officials announced Wednesday that the country will reopen its land borders to non-essential travel in November. The move ends a 19-month-long restriction put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.、
Vehicle, rail and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic. The new rules will permit fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for any reason starting in early November. A similar easing of restrictions is set to begin for air travel to the U.S. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the U.S., like truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.
Both Mexico and Canada have urged the U.S. for months to ease restrictions on travel. The latest move follows last month's announcement that the U.S. will end country-based travel bans for air travel. Instead, the U.S. will require vaccination for foreign nationals seeking to enter by airplane.
The new rules only effect legal entry to the U.S. Officials warned that those seeking to enter illegally will still be expelled under an existing law known as Title 42. Immigration activists have criticized the law for quickly removing migrants before they can ask for asylum. One official said the U.S. was continuing the policy because crowded conditions where migrants are held may increase the spread of COVID-19.
Travelers entering the U.S. by vehicle, rail and sea will be asked if they are vaccinated as part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection admissions process. Some travelers may be asked to provide proof of vaccination in a second inspection process.
No testing will be required to enter the U.S. by land or sea. However, travelers must meet the vaccination requirement.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the U.S. will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization. That means that the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in Canada, will be accepted.
Officials said the CDC was still working on the process for admitting those who received doses of two different vaccines.
Officials noted that the delay in the vaccination requirement for essential cross-border travel is meant to provide truck drivers and others with additional time to get vaccinated. They added that this will lower the risk of economic problems due to vaccination requirements.
The move toward restoring regular travel comes as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have dropped to about 85,000 a day. That is the lowest level since July, after an increase caused by the more infectious delta variant of the coronavirus. Case rates in Canada and Mexico have been much lower than in the U.S. throughout the pandemic.
Mexico has not put in place any COVID-19 entry measures for travelers. Canada permits entry of fully vaccinated individuals with proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Canada also permits people to provide proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of entry to the country.
I'm Jonathan Evans.