US to relax travel restrictions with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated travelers

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The new rules, similar to those announced for international air passengers, will be rolled out in stages. The first phase, which will begin in early November, will allow fully vaccinated visitors traveling for non-essential reasons, such as visiting friends or for tourism, to cross U.S. land borders. The second phase, which will begin in early January 2022, will apply the vaccination obligation to all incoming foreign travelers, whether they are traveling for essential or non-essential reasons.

“These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of Covid-19 and will create a consistent and strict protocol for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States,” whether by land or air, ”a senior administration official told reporters.

The United States has been limiting non-essential ground travel along its borders with Canada and Mexico since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and is extending those restrictions on a monthly basis. Air travel between the United States and these countries was possible. The restrictions do not apply to cross-border trade, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, and people traveling for medical purposes or to attend school, among other things.

The latest set of restrictions are due to expire on October 21. Senior administration officials have said the limits on cross-border travel will remain in place until a date soon to be disclosed in November.

A Trump-era public health order that authorizes the rapid deportation of more than 958,000 migrants will also remain in effect. These restrictions, while also based on public health, are necessary because of concerns about migrants in assembly places during processing, officials said.

Travel restrictions had come under scrutiny from lobbyists, lawmakers and border mayors who pleaded with the Biden administration to adjust the limits to accommodate the changing landscape.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul greeted the news Tuesday night. “I applaud our federal partners for reopening our borders with Canada, which I have been calling for since the start of the closure,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “Canada is not only our trading partner, but more importantly, Canadians are our neighbors and our friends.

New York Representative Brian Higgins, a Democrat who represents a district in the Buffalo area, also announced the decision, saying “high vaccination rates in Canada have made the continued border closure absurd and unjustifiable.”

“For months we have heard from businesses suffering and families distraught by the separation imposed by the continuing border closure. The sigh of relief coming from northern border communities following this announcement is so strong that it can practically be heard from both sides of the Peace Bridge. “

Asked about the timetable for reopening the borders, the White House has repeatedly highlighted the interagency working groups that were formed over the summer. Overseen by the White House Covid-19 Response Team and the National Security Council, the groups included representatives from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as officials from the Departments of State, Health and Social Services, Homeland Security and Transportation.

American officials were also associated with representatives from the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico.

“We have seen an increase in the availability of vaccines obviously in Canada, which now has very high vaccination rates, as well as in Mexico. And we wanted to have a coherent approach for land and air entry into this country and so this is the next step to align them, ”said the senior administration official.

The United States has previously told Canadians that the Biden administration wants the rules on the two land borders to remain symmetrical, a source close to the talks told CNN, despite different border situations and inconsistencies with transport rules. air.

The US-Mexico border has faced an influx of migrants that has exceeded resources, sparking some concern among US customs and border protection officials over the relaxation of travel restrictions at the southern border of the states. -United while increasing staff to help increase the number of migrants.

CBP will be responsible for enforcing the newly announced vaccination requirement, including seeking certificates of vaccination status and spot-checking travelers for verification of vaccination status by paper or digitally, according to another senior official at administration. There will be no testing requirement.

This story has been updated with the reaction.


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