WASHINGTON (AP) -USA will reopen its borders for non-essential travel next month and stop a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the country moves to demand that all international visitors be vaccinated against coronavirus .
Vehicle, rail, and ferry crossings between the United States and Canada and Mexico have been largely restricted to significant travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic. The new rules, announced Wednesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the United States regardless of the reason for travel, which begins in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions will begin for flights to the country. By mid-January, even important travelers wishing to enter the United States, like truck drivers, should be fully vaccinated.
Senior administration officials saw a preview of the new policy late Tuesday on condition of anonymity to speak ahead of the formal announcement.
Both Mexico and Canada have been pushing the United States for several months to ease travel restrictions that have separated families and curtailed leisure trips since the onset of the pandemic. The final step follows last month’s announcement that the United States will end land-based travel bans on air travel and instead require vaccination for foreign nationals wishing to enter by plane.
Both policies will take effect in early November, officials said. They did not specify a specific date.
The new rules apply only to the legal entry of U.S. officials and warned that those seeking to enter illegally will still be subject to deportation under so-called section 42 authority, first invoked by former President Donald Trump, and who have drawn criticism from immigration advocates for quickly removing migrants before they can seek asylum. One of the officials said the United States is pursuing the policy because cramped conditions in border patrol facilities pose a threat to COVID-19.
According to officials, travelers entering the United States by vehicle, rail, and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of the regular U.S. customs and border protection process. At the discretion of officers, travelers will have their evidence of vaccination verified in a secondary screening process.
Unlike air travel, where proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required before boarding a flight to enter the United States, no test is required to enter the United States by land or sea. , provided that the travelers meet the vaccination requirement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States will accept travelers who are fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the United States. This means that the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in Canada, will be accepted.
Officials said the CDC is still working on formalizing hospitalization procedures for those receiving doses of two different vaccines, as was quite common in Canada.
The delay in the vaccination requirement for significant cross-border travel is intended to give truck drivers and others extra time to get a shot and minimize potential financial disruptions from the vaccination mandate, officials said.
All in all, the new procedures are moving towards a policy based on individuals’ risk profiles rather than less targeted land-based bans.
The demand for vaccination for foreign nationals comes as the White House has moved to impose major vaccination requirements that affect as many as 100 million people in the United States in an attempt to encourage holdouts to get shots.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Labor finalized the first draft of an emergency ordinance that would require employers of 100 workers or more to have their employees vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly. The Office of Management and Budget is now reviewing the order before its implementation.
Mexico has not established procedures for the entry of COVID-19 for travelers. Canada allows the entry of fully vaccinated persons with evidence of vaccination against COVID-19 as well as evidence of a negative test performed within 72 hours of entry into the country.
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