After nearly 20 months, DHS is “loosening” restrictions for cross-border land travel. This is big news here in Cascadia, and will provide some welcome relief for some travelers. We visited the Blaine border crossing this week, midday, and the traffic flow was reminiscent of some of depleted salmon runs here in the Northwest. I witnessed perhaps three cars cross, over five to ten minutes, at the 1 PM hour. This all should change on November 8th — or actually 9 PM, November 7th for us West Coasters — when the new rules for non-essential travelers take effect.
Starting November 8, when arriving at a U.S. land POE or ferry terminal, non-citizen travelers should be prepared to:
- present proof of COVID-19 vaccination as outlined on the CDC website; and,
- verbally attest to their “non-essential” travel and COVID-19 vaccination status.
Individuals engaged in “essential” travel will not be required to be vaccinated yet. Starting in January 2022, however, all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land POEs or ferry terminals – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. Basically, this means those in nonimmigrant work statuses will need to have proof of vaccination by January 2022.
Essential travelers. Nonessential travelers. This is all a bit confusing, and particularly so, when considering the visitor traveler. The land border has been restricted to only “essential” travelers, but who is an who is essential has been left up to the border to decide, when it comes to visitor travel. Further, as time has gone on, the division between the essential (wanted?) and the non-essential (unwanted?) has taken its toll on both business and families. The situation has been exacerbated by the growing divide on border policy between Canada and the United States.
That U.S.-Canada policy splits will continue to be an issue, for a bit longer, as Canada still requires a PCR Covid test within 72 hours to re-enter. The testing requirement is a problem for the Canadian visitor who wants to come down for a short trip, for shopping, for family, for dinner, etc. They have to plan a trip to get a test, wait for the results, upload said results to Canada’s ArriveCan app, and then seek to return to Canada. The tests of course cost money. This all amounts to a significant disincentive to travel to the United States.
The testing requirement is not so much a disincentive for the snowbirds and longer stay tourists.
It was suggested in our talks with CBP this week that next week we may well see the older Canadians lining up in their RVs and campers, to make their “nonessential” annual trips down southern climates. The migration of the snowbirds. This makes sense, as a snowbird can manage a COVID test after a months-long stay. The testing requirement may also work for the family that wishes to visit family for a week, or perhaps Disneyland. It surely will work for some business trips as well. So, traffic at the border should pick up.
If the border catches someone without vaccine documentation, they have the legal authority to place such person in “expedited removal” and place a five year ban on their re-entry. They may well do this in cases of fraud and misrepresentation. I also expect we’ll see more secondary inspections for all sorts of other things, as border traffic picks up.
Hopefully in time, Canada and the United States can once again be “Children of a Common Mother,” as it says on the Peace Arch, and synchronize border policies to facilitate safe and sensible travel.
The Department of Homeland Security has prepared a Fact Sheet and Press Release providing the details on the opening. I’ve pasted the Press Release below for ease of reference.
DHS Releases Details for Fully Vaccinated, Non-Citizen Travelers to Enter the U.S. at Land and Ferry Border Crossings
Release Date: October 29, 2021
WASHINGTON— Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that non-citizen travelers who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation will be permitted to enter the United States via land ports of entry (POE) and ferry terminals starting on November 8, 2021. This shift eases long-standing restrictions on non-essential travel, consistent with public health guidance. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will soon share additional information about the steps eligible travelers will need to take to enter the United States under the new rules.
“We are pleased to take another step toward easing travel restrictions at our borders in a manner that strengthens our economy and protects the health and safety of the American public,” said Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “We continue working closely with our international partners to sustainably implement new rules for resuming travel.”
Starting November 8, when arriving at a U.S. land POE or ferry terminal, non-citizen travelers should be prepared to (1) provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, as outlined on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website; and (2) verbally attest to their reason for travel and COVID-19 vaccination status during a border inspection.
Any non-citizen attempting to enter the United States through illegal means or without appropriate documentation may be subject to expulsion or removal. Travelers arriving at a U.S. land POE or ferry terminal should be prepared to present any other relevant documents as requested by a CBP Officer. U.S. citizens are reminded to bring a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) document, such as a valid U.S. passport, Trusted Traveler Program card, Enhanced Driver’s License, or Enhanced Tribal Card, when re-entering the country and be prepared to present a WHTI-compliant document if requested by a CBP Officer during a border inspection. To learn more about the updated requirements for travelers, click here.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, CBP implemented temporary travel restrictions on March 20, 2020, which limited travel at land POEs along the U.S. northern and southern borders to essential travel, including travel for lawful trade, emergency response, and public health purposes. Individuals engaged in essential travel will not be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at this time. Starting in January 2022, however, all inbound foreign national travelers seeking to enter the United States via land POEs or ferry terminals – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination.
As travel begins to resume, travel volumes and wait times are expected to increase. Travelers should plan for longer than normal wait times and long lines at U.S. land border crossings when planning their trip and are reminded to exercise patience.
To help reduce wait times and long lines, travelers can take advantage of innovative technology, such as facial biometrics and the CBP One™ mobile application, which serves as a single portal for individuals to access CBP mobile applications and services.