Starting in November, fully vaccinated Canadians will be allowed entry into the United States by land or ferry ports of entry.
The land border has been closed to Canadians since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
The U.S. lifting land border restrictions in November coincides with the new international air travel system that will also be implemented next month, which will allow fully vaccinated, foreign national air travellers into the country.
Canadians have been allowed to travel by air to the U.S. throughout the pandemic. Trade and business travel at land borders has not been restricted.
Here’s what we know so far about next month’s land border reopening.
When will the U.S. land border reopen?
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced it will begin allowing fully-vaccinated travellers from Canada and Mexico to enter the country for non-essential purposes by land or ferry ports of entry.
The land border reopening will be rolled out in two phases.
The first, starting in November, will allow fully vaccinated travellers from Canada to enter the U.S. at land and ferry entry points for non-essential reasons.
Non-essential travel includes visiting friends or family, or tourism.
The second phase will start in early January 2022. The U.S. will require all inbound foreign national travellers entering the U.S. by land or ferry — for essential or non-essential reasons — be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have proof of vaccination.
The U.S. had suspended travel temporarily from people who were physically present in mainland China, India, Iran, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom, or the Schengen Area in the 14 days before entry. Some family members and people were allowed entry if they met specific exemptions.
What do I need to enter the U.S. by land border or ferry entry point?
Travellers will have to provide proof of vaccination. Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will not be allowed to travel for non-essential purposes from Canada and Mexico into the United States by land and ferry.
The restrictions on driving to the U.S. have impacted some Canadians with family or spouses south of the border. Snowbirds and people with vacation homes in the U.S. have also been unable to drive across the border since the start of the pandemic.
Those entering at the Mexico or Canada borders will be questioned by an officer from Customs and Border Protection about their vaccination status before crossing. The border officers will have the discretion to send travelers to secondary screenings to have travel and vaccination documents checked, officials said.
What do I need to re-enter or enter Canada from the U.S.?
You’ll need proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours before arrival at the border. Or if you’ve had COVID, show proof of a positive COVID-19 molecular test taken between 14 and 180 days before arrival.
Rapid antigen tests (those available for purchase online or at pharmacies) are not acceptable as proof of a negative test.
Molecular tests include the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a nucleic acid test (NAT) or nucleic acid amplification test (NAATs).
Download ArriveCAN and enter your mandatory information within 72 hours prior to arrival in Canada. Have your pre-arrival test result and proof of vaccination ready to show customs agents.
If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident traveling for discretionary purposes, you must show your ArriveCAN receipt prior to crossing into Canada.
If you are a vaccinated, you have to show your actual vaccine documentation (paper or digital copies, for each dose received) as proof of vaccination.
This is in addition to the requirements for your ArriveCAN receipt.
If you don't submit your information through ArriveCAN, you may be denied boarding if arriving by air, or denied entry into Canada if crossing at a land or marine border crossing.
Canadian citizens, permanent residents or persons registered under the Indian Act and foreign nationals eligible to enter Canada under other exemptions will not be denied entry, but may face additional delays for questioning due to public health concerns or may face fines or enforcement action.
While those traveling by airplane will need to show both proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States, there will be no testing requirement for those crossing the land border.
Which vaccines are recognized by the U.S.?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that travellers will be able to fly if they've received shots of vaccines approved by the FDA or the WHO.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three COVID-19 vaccines, and AstraZeneca was not among them. AstraZeneca is approved by the World Health Organization.
Officials have said that the CDC is still discussing whether foreigners crossing from Canada or Mexico with two doses of different vaccines can enter.
What about snowbirds?
The border closure has been a pain point for many snowbirds, the Canadians who winter annually in America.
Evan Rachkovsky, a spokesperson for the Canadian Snowbird Association, said they “applaud” the reopening news. More than 70 per cent of Canadian snowbirds travel to the U.S. using their Canadian vehicles, Rachkovsky pointed out.
“It is later in the season — people generally start planning their seasonal trips in September to go in October or into November. So, it is a bit late. But again, better late than never, in terms of allowing them to drive their Canadian vehicles, because for most snowbirds, that is the preference.”
“Once we once we receive a date, we anticipate the travel levels will return to close to the pre-pandemic norm.”
With files from the New York Times and Steve McKinley, Toronto Star
Ivy Mak is a team editor on the Star's breaking news desk, based in Toronto. Reach her via email: email@example.com