WASHINGTON — Beginning in November, the Biden administration will lift travel restrictions at the borders with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated travelers and reopen the doors of the United States to tourists and divorced relatives sealed off the country during the pandemic.
Foreign travelers who present proof of vaccination and wish to visit family or friends or shop in the United States will be allowed to enter, senior officials said Tuesday, weeks after the government said it would soon lift a similar sweeping restriction on foreign travel from abroad. abroad to the country.
The lifting of the bans will effectively mark the reopening of the United States to travelers and tourism, signaling a new phase in the recovery from the pandemic after the country closed its borders for nearly 19 months.
But the new requirements also indicate that the United States will only welcome visitors who have been vaccinated. Unvaccinated travelers will still not be allowed to cross the border into Mexico or Canada, officials said. Those who were never banned from traveling across land borders, including commercial drivers and students, will also have to show proof of vaccination when crossing from January – an effort to give them time to adapt to the new rules, officials said.
The travel restrictions, introduced in March 2020, only applied to “non-essential travelers” — relatives wishing to visit relatives or shoppers, on whom border communities relied for profit. Politicians representing such communities have urged the Biden administration to lift travel restrictions to provide deferred payments to ailing businesses.
New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand said the travel restrictions in her state had cost Erie County at least $660 million annually.
“This reopening will be welcome news for countless businesses, medical providers, families and loved ones who rely on travel across the northern border,” said Ms Gillibrand.
Officials did not give an exact date for lifting the travel restrictions.
Those entering the border into Mexico or Canada will be questioned by customs and border protection officials about their vaccination status before being allowed to cross. The officers are at liberty to send travelers to secondary screenings to have their documents checked, officials said.
However, President Biden will continue to use a separate border policy implemented early in the pandemic to reject migrants seeking protection or economic opportunity — a policy that has been criticized by a top State Department official and the US’s own medical advisers. government.
The decision on the land borders partly coincided with the reopening to foreign air travelers, officials said. While those traveling by air must present both a vaccination certificate and a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States, there are no testing requirements for those crossing the land border.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider people fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s.
Those who received vaccines listed by the World Health Organization for emergency use, such as AstraZeneca’s, would also be considered fully vaccinated — a standard one senior official said would likely be applied to those crossing the land border. Officials added that the CDC was still discussing whether foreigners crossing from Canada or Mexico with two doses of different vaccines could enter.
The decision to lift restrictions on air travel has been celebrated by business leaders abroad and in the United States. Travel spending fell by nearly half to about $600 billion in 2020 from a year earlier, according to the US Travel Association, a trade group.
“Border communities are paralyzed because of port closures,” Representative Veronica Escobar, a Texas Democrat who represents a border district, said in an interview. “Not only have we suffered greater damage to our health in 2020, but the economic damage has also lasted longer for us because of those port closures.”
Washington Democrat Senator Patty Murray said lifting the restrictions would benefit communities she represents, such as Point Roberts, which are “almost entirely dependent on cross-border travel to support their economies.”
But she warned that after “months of economic calamity,” largely caused by the border closure, more would be needed to ensure the community’s full recovery.
Nicholas Fandos reporting contributed.