The United States said that starting next month it will open its land borders with Mexico and Canada for non-essential travel. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 13 (UPI) -- The Biden administration announced late Tuesday that starting next month it will be opening its land borders with Canada and Mexico to fully vaccinated foreign travelers.
The U.S. borders have been shut to all but essential travel since March of last year, but the new policy announced by the Department of Homeland Security will allow all non-essential travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have all appropriate documentation to enter the country to visit friends and family as well as for tourism.
The policy change for land borders aligns with the one issued last month concerning foreign air travel, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
"We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner," he said.
The department said the two-phase lifting of border restrictions will see Customs and Border Protection starting in November to allow fully vaccinated travelers from Canada and Mexico to enter the United States for nonessential reasons.
Then starting in January, the requirement to show proof of vaccination will be applied to all foreign visitors, including those entering the country for essential travel, it said.
Officials said the delay was put in place to ensure essential travelers, such as truckers, students and healthcare workers, have enough time to become fully vaccinated.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive their final COVID-19 shot, whether it be the second of the two doses prescribed for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one dose for the Johnson & Johnson shot.
The department did not offer specific dates for when these measures would be in place.
"This new travel system will create consistent, stringent protocols for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States -- whether by air, land or ferry -- and accounts for the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccinations," the department said.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul praised the lifting of border restrictions in a statement late Tuesday.
"Canada is not only our trade partner, but more importantly, Canadians are our neighbors and our friends," she said. "From Western New York to the North Country, I look forward to welcoming our Canadian neighbors back to New York as we continue to rebuild and recover from this pandemic."
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., said the move was "good news" for businesses and families that have suffered due to the border closures, and they await further details on the plan.
"For months now we've heard from businesses that are suffering and families distraught over the separation imposed by the continued border shutdown. The sigh of relief coming from northern border communities following this announcement is so loud it can practically be heard on either end of the Peace Bridge," he said in a statement, referring to the bridge over Lake Eire that connects the United States and Canada.
Canada reopened its borders to fully vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9