In March, 2020, the United States and Canada closed their borders to non-essential travel as COVID-19 spread. Rising vaccination rates in both countries and overall plateauing coronavirus case numbers led Canada to open its border to fully vaccinated U.S. residents on Aug. 9, and the rest of the world on Sept. 7. But the Americans continued to block non-essential travel to the U.S. by land.
On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced its plans to open America’s land and ferry crossings to fully vaccinated Canadians and Mexicans. On Friday, a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity said the U.S. will announce that it plans to reopen its land borders to vaccinated non-essential visitors on Nov. 8.
“Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy,” U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a news release Wednesday. “We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday some of the details related to the border policy are still being discussed.
“We are working to clarify and finalize all the details with our American partners,” she said.
What are the Canada/U.S. border restrictions in place now?
Since March 2020, Canadians have not been able to cross the land border for non-essential reasons.
As of January of this year, any Canadians wanting to travel to the U.S. by air have been required to get tested for COVID-19 no less than three days before travel and provide a negative result to whatever airline they’re travelling with.
Since this summer, U.S. travellers have been able to skip quarantine when coming to Canada, provided they’re fully vaccinated – meaning they’ve received the full course of any Health Canada-approved vaccine – and have tested negative. In September, fully vaccinated travellers from other countries were also allowed entry as long as they had tested negative.
When is the U.S. border reopening?
United States announced that fully vaccinated Canadians and Mexicans will be able to cross into the U.S. via the land border as of Nov. 8.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the policy before it had been made public, said travellers will need to show proof of vaccination to Customs and Border Protection officials upon request. Foreign visitors crossing at a land border will not need to show proof of a recent negative test.
Who does this apply to?
The November change applies to non-essential travellers, meaning those looking to cross the border to visit family or for tourism.
Starting in Jan. 2022, the U.S. has said it will require all travellers, including essential travellers – for example, truckers, students or health care workers – to show proof of vaccination, which they currently are not obligated to do.
Does the U.S. accept vaccine mixing? What about AstraZeneca?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday it had updated its guidance to say that any individuals with mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be considered inoculated as long as the vaccines are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration or on the World Health Organization’s emergency-use list. These lists cover all the vaccines used in Canada.
About 3.9 million Canadians received mixed doses – either a combination of Pfizer and Moderna, or a first shot of AstraZeneca followed by a second dose of either Pfizer and Moderna.
“While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccine in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for the interpretation of vaccine records,” spokeswoman Kristin Nordlund said in a statement.
What constitutes proof of vaccination?
It remains unclear what kind of paperwork will be required at the U.S. border.
What are the quarantine rules in Canada for people returning from the U.S. or another country?
Fully vaccinated travellers who provide negative COVID-19 tests can enter Canada and do not need to quarantine. It is likely this rule will continue for Canadians returning home from travel in the U.S., but the government has not specifically said this will be the case. Travellers must have received their second vaccine doses at least 14 days before entering Canada.
Anyone entering Canada who is not fully vaccinated will need to do 14 days of quarantine.
What are the rules for arriving to the U.S. by plane?
Starting Nov. 8, the United States will also admit fully vaccinated foreign air travellers from the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. The unprecedented U.S. restrictions have barred non-U.S. citizens who were in those countries within the past 14 days.
Non-U.S. air travellers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding a flight, and will need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Foreign visitors crossing at a land border will not need to show proof of a recent negative test.
With files from Steven Chase and a report from the Canadian Press
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