Starting Monday, November 8, foreign nationals traveling for nonessential reasons will be permitted to enter the United States at land or ferry border crossings with proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. The Department of Homeland Security also announced that beginning January 2022, all foreign nationals traveling into the United States at land or ferry ports of entry, whether for essential or nonessential reasons, will be required to present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. These changes to land border travel requirements mirror the White House’s recent air travel mandates and reflect the administration’s new international travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to ensure the safe resumption of travel into the United States during the continuing pandemic.
Under restrictions announced in March 2020, only U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals traveling for essential reasons, including to work in the United States, had been permitted to enter the United States at land ports of entry or ferry terminals. Now, with proper proof of COVID-19 vaccination, noncitizens traveling for nonessential reasons, namely tourism, can resume entry into the United States by land and ferry. Proper proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for land travelers will include the same documentation required for air travelers, as announced in recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention orders and instructions. As with noncitizen air travelers, children under 18 are excepted from the nonessential travel vaccination requirement for entry into the United States by land.
This announcement is a welcome change for individuals seeking to lawfully enter the United States via the northern or southern border to visit family or for other recreational purposes. Business travelers at U.S. land borders who meet the “essential travel” criteria may continue to travel without proof of vaccination under the previous policy, as extended into January 2022. Starting in January 2022, however, all foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land ports of entry or ferry terminals (whether essential or nonessential) must comply with the full vaccination requirements. In this regard, it is critical for these essential travelers to start planning now to meet the new requirements in January.