United States officials have confirmed that a COVID-19 test will not be required to enter the U.S. at the land border, which opens to non-essential travel on Nov. 8, 2021.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced on Friday that non-citizen travellers who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation will be permitted to enter the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals.
“This shift eases long-standing restrictions on non-essential travel, consistent with public health guidance,” the department said in news release.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it will soon share additional information about the steps eligible travellers will need to take to enter the United States under the new rules.
“We are pleased to take another step toward easing travel restrictions at our borders in a manner that strengthens our economy and protects the health and safety of the American public,” said Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a statement. “We continue working closely with our international partners to sustainably implement new rules for resuming travel.”
Starting Nov. 8
Starting November 8, when arriving at a U.S. land point of entry or ferry terminal, non-citizen travellers should be prepared to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, as outlined on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on Oct. 15, said it will accept international travellers vaccinated with mixed doses of any FDA or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines.
This includes six brands of vaccines: Oxford/AstraZeneca (including its Indian-made counterpart, Covishield), Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BionTech, Sinopharm and Sinovac.
Travellers must also verbally attest to their reason for travel and COVID-19 vaccination status during a border inspection, said homeland security.
U.S. Homeland Security also noted that as travel begins to resume, “travel volumes and wait times are expected to increase.”
“Travellers should plan for longer than normal wait times and long lines at U.S. land border crossings when planning their trip and are reminded to exercise patience,” the department said.
Air travellers entering the U.S., on the other hand, must show proof of vaccination and proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken at least three days before departure.
Scrap PCR testing, advocates says
The United States’ policy differs from Canada’s – as part of its decision reopen its side of the border to Americans on Aug. 9, Canada requires visitors and citizens entering the country to show a negative molecular (PCR) test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
The Government of Canada first mandated COVID-19 molecular testing for air travellers In January 2021. This policy was eventually extended to land travellers also.
Antigen tests, which are faster to process and cost less, are currently not accepted by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Last week, members of the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable held a press conference to call on Ottawa to remove unnecessary barriers and expenses related to travel, like mandatory PCR testing, as snowbird season begins.
“Seniors are ready to escape the Canadian winter for a time and families are planning their next vacation,” said Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) on Oct. 28. “Unfortunately, the closer travellers get to their departure or paying their final payment for their trip, they are often cancelling or rescheduling.”
A PCR test can cost upwards of $200 per person, Paradis said, noting how several countries, such as France, Germany, Portugal and the U.K., have dropped their testing policies for travellers.
“Many Canadian seniors want to start heading south for milder weather. Many of their children and grandchildren go and visit them at the holidays or during March Break,” Paradis said. “Unfortunately, this year, many families will not be able to do this. Not because of COVID-19, but rather, because of the high cost of burdensome government policy, which is not based on science or evidence.”
Michael MacKenzie, executive director at Canadian Snowbird Association, estimates that some 600,000 Canadians are planning to spend their winter – the full six months that is allowed – in warm U.S. destinations.
The “burdensome” costs of PCR testing “means unvaccinated and fully vaccinated travellers are being treated identically,” MacKenzie told reporters.
"Canadians have done their part for almost two years by staying home, wearing masks, isolating from family and getting vaccinated,” he said. “The time has come for the government to end these unnecessary barriers and return to affordable travel.”
Paradis said ACTA and the Roundtable’s “ask” of the federal government is to make decisions around travel restrictions “based on science and data.”
She referenced the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, a science-based report, released last May, that states that pre-arrival testing is not necessary for fully vaccinated travellers.
“We ask them to go back to their own expert panel of doctors and scientists and follow their advice,” Paradis said.
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