On October 12, 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will lift restrictions and allow travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to resume nonessential travel (e.g., vacations and tourism) across land and ferry ports from Canada and Mexico.
Beginning in March 2020, DHS limited travel of individuals from Canada and Mexico to the U.S. via land and ferry ports for “essential” purposes only. The restrictions were meant to reduce the spread of COVID-19 across such borders. Essential travel included, among other categories, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the U.S. and those traveling to the U.S. for work. The agency’s rule explicitly prohibited entry to the U.S. for nonessential purposes, such as tourism. These restrictions have been routinely extended, most recently on September 22, 2021.
According to DHS, the restrictions will be lifted in two phases. Next month, DHS will allow fully vaccinated travelers to cross land and ferry borders for nonessential travel to the U.S. By January 2022, all foreign travelers entering the U.S. for any purpose (essential and nonessential) must be fully vaccinated.
DHS’s announcement coincides with another update from the White House via Twitter that all vaccinated foreign travelers will be eligible to enter the U.S. beginning November 8, 2021—including land and air ports of entry. This is the most specificity provided since the U.S. government signaled last month that it would end to the geographic COVID-19 travel bans affecting air travel to the U.S. At this time, the Presidential Proclamations prohibiting travel from China, Iran, the Schengen Zone, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Brazil, and India have yet to be rescinded or amended, but that is expected to occur in the coming weeks.
Travelers should carry proof of vaccination and all necessary U.S. immigration documentation. On October 8, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that all six vaccines authorized by the FDA or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization will meet the criteria for travel to the U.S.—Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), AstraZeneca (including Covishield), Sinopharm (Beijing), and Sinovac. The CDC is also expected to publish guidance for any available exceptions to the vaccination requirement.
T&S will continue to monitor further publications and announcements from the U.S. government regarding formal termination of the travel bans and implementation of the vaccine mandate for international travel. Noncitizens planning to enter the U.S. prior to November are encouraged to consult with a T&S legal professional for further guidance.