U.S. Land Border to Reopen to Vaccinated Canadians in November, Says Congressman

By The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
October 13, 2021 Updated: October 13, 2021

WASHINGTON—A congressman from New York state says the United States plans to reopen its land border to vaccinated Canadians in November.

In a statement, Rep. Brian Higgins says proof of vaccination will be required for Canadians to enter.

He did not give a specific date, but he said further details will be announced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in co-ordination with the government’s health agencies.

Higgins, who serves as co-chair of both the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group and the Northern Border Caucus, has lobbied the White House to provide guidance that allows for the reopening of the border.

“A robust cross-border exchange between the United States and Canada is fundamental to our binational relationship and mutually beneficial to our nations’ citizens, businesses and economies,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “Strong vaccination rates in Canada made the continued border shutdown absurd and unjustifiable.”

Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents have been allowed back into Canada since August, provided they have waited at least 14 days since getting a full course of a Health Canada-approved vaccine and can show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

Beginning in early November, the U.S. plans to allow fully vaccinated visitors from a host of countries where stateside travel has long been restricted, including China, India, Ireland, Iran, South Africa, Brazil and the 26 European countries without border controls, known as the Schengen group.

Vaccines approved by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization will be accepted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed this week.

But CDC stayed mum on the question of whether those who received a mixed course of vaccines—one dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca and one of Moderna, for instance—would be considered fully vaccinated for travel purposes.

Questions put to the CDC were not immediately answered earlier on Tuesday.

Only about 66 per cent of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the latest numbers available from the CDC. By comparison, Health Canada says 81 per cent of eligible Canadians 12 or over have had a full course of vaccine.

The decision to reopen the land border ends a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is part of a plan to also open the border with Mexico. Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic.

The Associated Press said the new rules, to be announced Wednesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set to kick in for air travel into the country. By mid-January, even essential travellers seeking to enter the U.S., like truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.

Senior administration officials previewed the new policy late Tuesday on the condition of anonymity to speak ahead of the formal announcement.

Both Mexico and Canada have pressed the U.S. for months to ease restrictions on travel that have separated families and curtailed leisure trips since the onset of the pandemic. The latest move follows last month’s announcement that the U.S. will end country-based travel bans for air travel, and instead require vaccination for foreign nationals seeking to enter by plane.

According to the officials, travellers entering the U.S. by vehicle, rail and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of the standard U.S. Customs and Border Protection admissions process. At officers’ discretion, travellers will have their proof of vaccination verified in a secondary screening process.

Unlike air travel, for which proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required before boarding a flight to enter the U.S., no testing will be required to enter the U.S. by land or sea, provided the travellers meet the vaccination requirement.

The delay in the vaccination requirement for essential cross-border travel is meant to provide truck drivers and others with additional time to get a shot and minimize potential economic disruption from the vaccination mandate, officials said.

With files from The Associated Press

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press