The United States will open its northern and southern land borders to fully vaccinated foreign nationals sometime in November 2021. When this happens, it will be the first time since March 2020 that these individuals will be able to enter the United States from Canada and Mexico for “non-essential” purposes, such as tourism, shopping, and family gatherings.

The reopening is expected to occur in two phases. During the first phase, fully vaccinated foreign nationals will be able to enter for non-essential purposes. Unvaccinated individuals will still be able to enter for essential purposes, including for work. During the second phase, scheduled to go into effect in early January 2022, all foreign nationals, whether entering for essential purposes or not, will have to be fully vaccinated. The expectation is that there will be limited exceptions, for example for children.

The “essential travel” restrictions applied only to land and sea borders. Foreign nationals have been able to fly into the United States from Canada or Mexico if they met the COVID-19 testing requirements. In November, however, new COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements will be in place for all air travel. All foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States from anywhere, with limited exceptions, will have to be fully vaccinated, as well as show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure. Unvaccinated U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents will need to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of boarding a flight to the United States and undergo testing upon arrival.

The United States is a little late to the border game. Canada reopened its border to fully vaccinated Americans on August 9, 2021, and to other fully vaccinated foreign nationals on September 7, 2021. It is still not clear exactly when the new U.S. rules will become effective. The United States already announced that the 14-day travel restrictions on China, Iran, the UK and Ireland, the 26 Schengen Zone countries, Brazil, South Africa, and India are scheduled to be lifted sometime in “early” November. The northern and southern border restrictions will be lifted at the same time. We are still awaiting official guidance on documentation requirements and the implementation date.