The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Wednesday that it would allow foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel across the U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico for “nonessential” purposes starting in November.

Key Points:

  • Beginning in November, fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico and Canada will be able to enter the U.S. for nonessential purposes, including visiting friends and family or for tourism. Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be able to travel through land and ferry ports of entry for nonessential purposes. DHS has not provided an exact date on which this change will take effect.
  • Beginning in January 2022, DHS will require all foreign nationals entering the U.S. through land or ferry ports of entry to be fully vaccinated, whether they are traveling for essential or nonessential purposes.

Additional Information: The U.S.’s bans on nonessential travel across land borders with Canada and Mexico have been in place since March 2020 and extended for 30-day periods since then.

In a statement Wednesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said the land travel changes would be implemented in “alignment with the new international air travel system that will be implemented in November.” Under the new air travel system, the U.S. is expected to lift the current bans on entry to many foreign nationals who have been physically present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom or the Schengen Area in the past 14 days, for travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The U.S. is expected to impose a vaccine requirement on all travelers entering the U.S. by air, even from countries that are not currently restricted. Media reports indicate the U.S. will accept vaccines that are authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO); however, there has been no official announcement and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not yet provided a final list of which vaccines will be accepted.

Air travelers will have to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel and provide proof of the negative result, as is currently required. Officials will develop criteria regarding what it means to be “fully vaccinated” and the type of proof that must be shown in order to travel.

BAL Analysis: A number of travel restrictions remain in place and the announcement does not make any immediate changes. The government’s plans to ease the current land and air travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers will make travel to the U.S. easier for many foreign nationals. However, key details, including implementation dates and official guidance on which vaccines will be accepted, remain unavailable at this time. Employers and employees should continue to consult their BAL professional before planning any international travel. BAL will provide additional information as it becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice Group. For additional information, please contact

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