US to reopen land borders in November for fully vaccinated visitors

THE US WILL reopen its land borders to non-essential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the Covid-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated. Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the US and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic. The new rules, to be announced on Wednesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the US regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set to begin for air travel into the country.

By mid-January, even essential travellers seeking to enter the US, like truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated. Senior administration officials previewed the new policy with reporters late on Tuesday on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement. Mexico and Canada have pressed the US for months to ease restrictions on travel that have separated families and curtailed leisure trips since the onset of the pandemic.

The latest move follows last month’s announcement that the US will end country-based travel bans for air travel, and instead require vaccination for foreign nationals seeking to enter by plane. Both policies will take effect in early November, the officials said. They did not specify a particular date.

The strict ban on travel into the US has been in place since March 2020 when then-president Donald Trump announced the curbs as part of measures to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19. The restriction has remained in place for the eight months since Joe Biden’s inauguration and there have been intense diplomatic efforts from the EU and UK in recent months to lift it. Last month, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the change is “something that we, along with our EU colleagues, have been advocating for a considerable time”.

“Ensuring ease of travel is vital for protecting our strong connections across the Atlantic, be that in business, academia, tourism or family connections,” a statement from Coveney said. “With 90% of Irish adults now fully vaccinated, I know this will come as very good news for many in Ireland, the Irish living in the United States, as well as our American friends with links to Ireland and the rest of Europe.” The lifting of the ban will apply to all passengers if they are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.

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The European Union in June opened up travel to passengers from the United States, typically requiring proof of vaccination or negative tests.

As it stands, only US citizens, their families or green card holders are allowed enter the US if they have been in the EU, UK or a range of countries in the previous 14 days. Since the policy changes were announced, there has been an increase in EU citizens enquiring about travel to the US. The new rules only apply to legal entry to the US.

Officials cautioned that those seeking to enter illegally will still be subject to expulsion under so-called Title 42 authority, first invoked by former President Donald Trump, that has drawn criticism from immigration advocates for swiftly removing migrants before they can seek asylum.

One of the officials said the US was continuing the policy because cramped conditions in border patrol facilities pose a Covid-19 threat.

Contains reporting by Ronan Duffy


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