US Now Requires All Foreign Travelers to Be COVID-19 Vaccinated When Crossing Land Ports, Ferry Terminals

But COVID-19 testing won't be required

US Now Requires All Foreign Travelers to Be COVID-19 Vaccinated When Crossing Land Ports, Ferry Terminals
People entering the United States at the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry in San Ysidro, Calif., on Nov. 7, 2021. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Starting Jan. 22, non-U.S. travelers who wish to enter the United States via ferry terminals or land ports of entry at the U.S.–Mexico or U.S.–Canada borders must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced.

The land borders had been closed to non-essential travel for 20 months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Non-essential foreign visitors were allowed to enter the United States starting Nov. 8, 2021—including across land borders and ferry terminals—if they were vaccinated against COVID-19.

At the time, essential workers, such as truck drivers and nurses who were crossing land borders, were not required to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

The DHS said on Jan. 20 that the update in policy—to apply for both non-essential and essential travelers—"will align public health measures that govern land travel with those that govern incoming international air travel."

"These updated travel requirements reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to protecting public health while safely facilitating the cross-border trade and travel that is critical to our economy," Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

The requirement will not apply to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or U.S. nationals.

Unlike air travelers, people crossing land borders or ferry terminals are not required to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

To enter the United States by air, foreign nonimmigrant travelers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. There are some exceptions that will allow the person to come in without needing to be fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of Jan. 22, the federal government has not been requiring people who have illegally crossed the border to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Update: This article has been updated to include details about federal policy with regard to COVID-19 vaccine requirements for illegal immigrants crossing the border, as of Jan. 22.