WASHINGTON, Oct.12 (Reuters) – The United States will lift restrictions on its land borders with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November, ending historic restrictions on non-essential travelers in place since March 2020 for fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that the administration next month “will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the United States at non-essential purposes, including visiting friends and family or for tourism, via land and sea border crossings. “
The new rules are similar but not identical to the planned requirements announced last month for international air travelers, US officials said in an earlier call with reporters.
Lawmakers in U.S. border states have hailed the move to lift unprecedented restrictions that have hurt the economies of local communities and barred visits to friends and families for 19 months.
“Since the start of the pandemic, members of our common cross-border community have felt the pain and economic hardship of closing land borders. This pain is about to end,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in a press release.
Unvaccinated visitors will still not be allowed to enter the United States from Canada or Mexico at the land borders.
Officials in President Joe Biden’s administration have stressed that the White House will not lift the “Title 42” ordinance put in place by the administration of former President Donald Trump that essentially cut off access to the asylum for hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking to enter from Mexico.
The precise date, in early November, for the lifting of restrictions on land and air travel will be announced “very soon,” one of the officials said.
Homeland Security said the administration was creating “consistent and strict protocols for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States – whether by air, land or ferry.”
On August 9, Canada began allowing fully immunized U.S. visitors for non-essential travel.
Once U.S. restrictions are lifted, non-essential foreign visitors crossing U.S. land borders, such as tourists, will be able to visit if vaccinated. In early January, the United States will require essential visitors, such as truck drivers or healthcare workers, to be vaccinated to cross land borders, officials said.
U.S. lawmakers have pushed the White House to lift restrictions that ban non-essential travel of Canadians across the northern U.S. border since March 2020, and many border communities have been hit hard by the shutdown. Mexico has also urged the Biden administration to ease restrictions.
Senator Maria Cantwell said the announcement “will bring great relief to those waiting to see friends and loved ones from Canada.”
The White House announced on September 20 that the United States would lift travel restrictions on air travelers from 33 countries, including China, India, Brazil and most of Europe, which are entirely vaccinated against COVID-19. He also said he would extend vaccine requirements to foreign air travelers from all other countries.
Foreign visitors entering the United States by land or ferry will need to be vaccinated but will not necessarily need to show proof of vaccination unless referred by Customs and the United States Border Patrol for secondary inspections.
In contrast, all non-U.S. Air travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding a flight and will need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Foreign visitors crossing a land border will not need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that the United States would accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by US regulators or the World Health Organization.
An unanswered question is whether the United States will accept vaccines from visitors who have received doses of two different COVID-19 vaccines.
Restrictions on US land borders have not prevented US citizens from returning home.
Reporting by David Shepardson, Steve Holland, Tim Ahmann and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Eric Beech, Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Richard Pullin
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