U.S. to Re-open Canada and Mexico Borders for Fully Vaccinated Travellers

This article was originally published on October 14, 2021 and has been updated to reflect the most recent announcements.

Update: On Friday October 16, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that people with “any combination” of two doses of a vaccine approved by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization are considered fully vaccinated.

This news also confirms that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is approved by the World Health Organization, but not the FDA, would be deemed acceptable. The full list of WHO and/or FDA approved COVID-19 vaccinations includes Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson [J&J]/Janssen, and AstraZeneca/Oxford.

On October 15, 2021, assistant White House press secretary, Kevin Munoz announced that the new travel policy will be implemented on November 8, 2021. Mr. Munoz also confirmed that the announcement requiring proof of vaccination applies to both international air travel and non-essential land travel.

Starting in January 2022, proof of vaccination will be extended and required for essential land travel as well. There is no vaccination requirement for essential travel by land until implementation in January 2022.

A mandatory negative pre-arrival COVID-19 test remains in place for air travel. There has been no further clarification on how the U.S. authorities will be responding to travellers with mixed vaccine doses.

On October 12, 2021, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that in November 2021, fully vaccinated travellers from Canada and Mexico will be able to enter the United States via land and ferry port of entries for non-essential purposes.

The existing U.S. border restrictions, requiring travellers to have an essential purpose for travel at land ports of entry, were set to expire on October 21, 2021, but will now be extended until the new rules go into effect.

This announcement follows the White House COVID-19 co-ordinator’s announcement on September 20, 2021 which stated that all foreign travellers entering the U.S. by air would need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding U.S. bound flights.

When is the Land Border set to Re-open?

Modifications to the current Title 19 regulations are set occur in two phases. On a yet to be determined date in November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will allow fully vaccinated travellers from Canada and Mexico to enter the U.S. through land borders or ferry crossings for non-essential purposes.

Starting sometime in early January 2022, DHS will require all foreign national travellers entering the U.S. by land or ferry be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination. Fully vaccinated travellers will not be required to show a negative COVID-19 test. Land-based travel at this point will be allowed for both essential and non-essential travellers if they are fully vaccinated.

Proof of Vaccination Details

Senior administration officials have said that a number of details are still being clarified, including what documentation travellers will be required to provide as proof of vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has advised that it plans to recommend the acceptance of air travellers who have been vaccinated with any vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, which includes AstraZeneca. Senior administration officials have said a travellers can expect a similar rule at land crossings.

Confusion Over Mixed Vaccination Doses Remains

Although the CDC has recommended accepting World Health Organization approved vaccines, it is not clear how the U.S. authorities will be responding to travellers with mixed vaccine doses. Acceptance of mixed vaccine doses has been an ongoing issue and will hopefully be addressed in future announcements.

We will continue to monitor the restrictions and the exemptions as they are announced. To stay up-to-date with all current immigration and COVID-19 updates, visit the MLT Aikins COVID-19 Resource Centre.

The immigration group at MLT Aikins can provide guidance and assistance in ensuring that all prospective travellers are fully aware of their ability to travel and whether any exemptions apply.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.