CBS NEWS -CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ/BARRIE 360
The U.S. government next month will lift pandemic-era travel limits along the Canadian and Mexican borders for travelers who are vaccinated against the coronavirus, allowing them to enter the U.S. for non-essential activities, like tourism and family visits, for the first time since March 2020.
Starting in early November, the Department of Homeland Security will exempt travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from the non-essential travel restrictions in place along both U.S. land borders, senior Biden administration officials told reporters during a call Tuesday.
Those who can’t provide proof of vaccination will continue to be banned from crossing the land borders if their travel is deemed to be “non-essential.” U.S. citizens, green card holders, and individuals traveling for medical care have been exempted from the non-essential restrictions since they were instituted.
Starting in January 2022, the U.S. will require all travelers — including those engaging in essential travel, like truck drivers — to show proof of vaccination before entering a land border crossing, the officials said.
“This phased approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers and others to get vaccinated, enabling a smooth transition to this new system,” one administration official said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will accept paper or digital proof of vaccination, an official said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet determined which vaccines the U.S. will recognize, the officials added. The U.S. has not approved the mixing of vaccine doses or the AstraZeneca vaccine for its own residents.
However, an official on the call noted that the CDC plans to recommend the acceptance of air travellers who have been inoculated with any vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, which includes AstraZeneca. The official said a similar rule should be expected at land crossings.
An exact date for the reopening has not yet been determined.
Tuesday’s announcement is likely to be welcomed by Mexican and Canadian travellers, as well as U.S. border community leaders, who have been urging the Biden administration for months to lift the travel limits, which have hurt local economies that rely on tourism and commerce.
The existing border restrictions were set to expire on Oct. 21, but will now be extended until the new rules go into effect.