US to reopen land borders with Mexico and Canada in November – for those vaccinated
The United States will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico to non-essential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the country prepares to demand that all international visitors are vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Vehicle, train and ferry travel between the United States and Canada and Mexico has been largely limited to essential travel, such as commerce, since the early days of the pandemic. The new rules, announced on Wednesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the United States regardless of the reason for travel from early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is expected to take effect for air travel in the United States. the country. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the United States, such as truck drivers, will need to be fully immunized.
Mexico and Canada have both lobbied the United States for months to ease travel restrictions that have separated families and reduced leisure travel since the start of the pandemic. The latest move follows last month’s announcement that the United States will end travel bans to countries for air travel and instead require vaccination of foreign nationals seeking to enter by air.
Families separated by COVID-19 restrictions and besieged business owners rejoiced on Wednesday after the news that the United States would reopen its land borders next month.
The ban has had a huge social and cultural impact, preventing family reunions when relatives live on different sides of the border. Community events have stalled even as cities far from the U.S. borders have moved closer to normalcy.
“This is a victory for the families who have been separated and for the businesses and tourism industries whose operations have been blocked since the start of the pandemic,” said US Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, echoing the reactions of other federal, state and local officials. .
Travel across land borders from Canada and Mexico has been largely limited to workers whose jobs are deemed essential. It hurts businesses as well as families: In Del Rio, Texas, Mexican visitors account for about 65% of retail sales, said Blanca Larson, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Visitors Bureau. 35,000 inhabitants.
“Along the border, we are more like one community than two different communities,” she said.
Malls and big box stores in U.S. border cities whose parking lots had been filled with cars with Mexican license plates have been hit hard by the travel restrictions.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said the economic impact was hard to quantify, but can be seen in the low presence of shoppers at an upscale mall on the city’s border with Tijuana, Mexico. The decision comes at a critical time ahead of the holiday shopping season.
Cross-border traffic has dropped since the pandemic, according to figures from the US Department of Transportation. The number of vehicle passengers entering the United States at Niagara Falls, New York – the busiest land crossing at the Canadian border – fell 83% to 1.7 million in 2020 and has remained low this year.
“The loss of these customers over the past 18 months has been one of the main reasons our hotels, restaurants and attractions have suffered,” said Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara, the agency’s tourism of the region.
A change coming in November
Senior administration officials previewed the new land border policy on Tuesday evening. Both policies will take effect in early November, officials said.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was “pleased to take steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner” and praised the economic benefits.
Travelers entering the United States by vehicle, train, and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of the standard admission process for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. At the discretion of officers, travelers will have their proof of vaccination verified during a secondary screening process.
According to The New York Times Global COVID Vaccination Tracker, 38% of the Mexican population is now fully vaccinated, 52% having received at least one dose.
In Canada, 78% of the population is fully vaccinated, 73% having received at least one dose.
Unlike air travel, where proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required before boarding a flight to enter the United States, no testing will be required to enter the United States by land or sea. , provided that travelers meet the vaccination requirements.