The US will reopen its land borders to non-essential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the US and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic.
The new rules, to be announced on Wednesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the US, regardless of the reason for travel, starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set to kick in for air travel into the country.
By mid-January, essential travellers seeking to enter the US, such as lorry drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.
Senior administration officials previewed the new policy late on Tuesday.
Mexico and Canada have pressed the US for months to ease restrictions on travel that have separated families and curtailed leisure trips since the onset of the pandemic.
The latest move follows last month’s announcement that the US will end country-based bans for air travel and instead require vaccination for foreign nationals seeking to enter by plane.
Both policies will take effect in early November, officials said. They did not specify a particular date.
According to the officials, travellers entering the US by vehicle, rail and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of the standard US Customs and Border Protection admissions process.
At officers’ discretion, travellers will have their proof of vaccination verified in a secondary screening process.
Unlike air travel, for which proof of a negative Covid-19 test is required before boarding a flight to enter the US, no testing will be required to enter the US by land or sea, provided the travellers meet the vaccination requirement.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the US will accept travellers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation, not only those in use in the US.
That means that the AstraZeneca vaccine – widely used in Canada – will be accepted.
Officials said the CDC was still working to formalise procedures for admitting those who received doses of two different vaccines, as is fairly common in Canada.