In March 2020, U.S. officials reached mutual agreements with the governments of Mexico and Canada that nonessential travel across the land borders would lead to increased risk of COVID-19 transmission. Therefore, the countries agreed to limit travel through land ports of entry (including passenger ferries) to only “essential travel,” for a period of 30 days, at which time the measures would be reviewed and possibly extended. Each month thereafter, the restrictions on nonessential border travel were extended due to the ongoing threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most recently, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas extended the temporary restrictions for the northern and southern border through March 21, 2021. As a result, individuals are not permitted to travel through border ports of entry and ferry terminals if traveling for tourism purposes, such as sightseeing or shopping. These restrictions do not apply to air, freight rail, or sea travel, but do apply to pedestrian, passenger rail, passenger ferry, and pleasure boat travel across the border.
Essential travel remains permitted, and includes returning citizens and lawful permanent residents, emergency responders, those traveling to work in the United States, athletes participating in sporting events, and individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers have discretion to make the determination of whether a particular journey qualifies as essential travel.