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U.S. to Reopen Land Borders Next Month to Vaccinated Travelers

A Customs and Border Protection vehicle patrols along a new section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in El Paso, Texas, August 27, 2020. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuter)

The U.S. is set to reopen its land borders to nonessential travel in November, lifting a 19-month ban that was implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration announced Wednesday.

The shift will allow fully-vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. via vehicle, rail and ferry travel for any reason beginning early next month, when a similar loosening of restrictions is set to take effect for air travel. The U.S. announced last month it would end country-based travel bans for air travel and would instead require foreign nationals seeking to enter the country to be fully-vaccinated.

However, while those who travel via plane must present proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to enter the U.S., no testing will be required to enter the U.S. by land or sea.

By mid-January, even essential travelers trying to enter the U.S., such as truck drivers, will be required to be fully vaccinated.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was “pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner,” according to the Associated Press.

The decision comes as Mexico and Canada have urged the U.S. for months to lift the restrictions that have separated families and dampened tourism since the pandemic began.

Travelers entering the U.S. by land or sea will be asked about their vaccination status during the U.S. Customs and Border Protection admissions process. Some travelers may have their proof of vaccination verified in a secondary screening process.

The CDC said the U.S. will allow travelers who have been vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, including the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The new rules apply only to legal entry to the U.S., those attempting to gain entry to the U.S. illegally will still face expulsion under the Title 42 public health order.

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