White House to reopen Canadian and Mexican borders to fully vaccinated travellers

Fully vaccinated travellers from Canada and Mexico will be able to enter the United States for non-essential travel at land border crossings starting in early November, according to a senior Biden administration official.

Non-essential travel to the United States from Mexico and Canada — a broad category which includes nearly all travel for tourism or recreational purposes — has been prohibited by land since 21 March of last year, when then-President Donald Trump signed an order closing the United States’ land border crossings to all but essential travel.

But beginning early next month, the Biden administration will begin reopening border crossings to travellers who have been fully inoculated with one of the seven World Health Organisation-approved vaccines against Covid-19, including the AstraZeneca vaccine developed at Oxford University, the Chinese-made Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, and the US-made Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines.

The new land border crossing policy will take effect at the same time as the Biden administration’s new vaccination requirement for air travellers, officials said.

Unvaccinated travellers will still be permitted to enter the United States for essential travel until early January, when the second phase of the new policy goes into effect.

After that, officials said any inbound foreign national entering the US at a land crossing for any reason will have to have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters on the new protocols said the phased approach is meant to allow time for essential travellers such as truckers to get their shots before the more stringent restrictions take effect in January.

“We understand how valuable the cross-border travel from Canada and Mexico is to the economic activity in border communities and to our broader economy,” the official said.

“We also know how meaningful the ability to travel is to maintain the personal ties between people living on either side of the northern and southern US borders — who are often effectively members of one community — and we are pleased to be able to move forward with these strict protocols to ensure cross border travel can occur in a safe and sustainable manner”.

A second official added that the new restrictions will not have any effect on the protocols in place for irregular migrants crossing borders between points of entry.

“Any foreign national attempting to attempting to enter the United States irregularly through any illegal means, or without the proper documentation, will be subject to border restrictions,” they said, adding later that US Customs and Border Protection officers will be responsible for checking travellers’ paperwork.

“A foreign traveller who is not vaccinated would not be permitted to enter the United States and will instead be allowed to withdraw their application for admission and return to Canada or Mexico,” the official explained.

“The new travel system will create consistent, and stringent protocols for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States, whether by air, land or ferry…this action is guided by public health and the science, and ensures that we are using the best tools we have to protect people from Covid-19.”

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