U.S. to Open Land Border With Canada, Mexico for First Time Since March 2020

Restrictions will be lifted in November, although an exact start date hasn't been announced.

The United States will ease travel restrictions on its land border and ports with Canada and Mexico starting in November, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday.

"In alignment with the new international air travel system that will be implemented in November, we will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. "Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy. We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner."

Canadian and American flags fly near the base of the Ambassador Bridge connecting Canada to the U.S. in Windsor, Ontario, Canada,
Cole Burston/Getty Images

The decision was made following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health experts, DHS said. Travelers will have to be fully vaccinated to enter the country for non-essential reasons.

A precise date when restrictions would be lifted wasn't immediately clear.

This marks a significant policy reversal for the U.S., which has extended the land border closure on a month-by-month basis since March 2020. In August, Canada opened its borders to fully vaccinated U.S. tourists, allowing them to arrive by both land and air. Similarly, Mexico welcomes U.S. tourists who fly there.

But in September, the U.S. extended the land closure for another month. The closure does not apply to U.S. citizens coming back into the country after traveling abroad to Mexico or Canada.

The move also comes as the U.S. prepares to welcome vaccinated foreign visitors in November, a plan that was announced in September and that has been in the works for months. For those travelers, the country plans to accept six vaccines that have been approved or authorized by either the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization, including Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, as well as AstraZeneca/Oxford, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

Going forward, unvaccinated American travelers will still be allowed to fly back to the country, but with more stringent testing protocols in place, including a requirement they get tested within one day of their departure and show proof they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arriving, White House officials have said.

By January 2022, DHS said it plans to extend the vaccine mandate for all foreign travelers crossing into the U.S. by land or ferry, regardless if they are coming for essential or non-essential reasons. The department said this will "create consistent, stringent protocols."

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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