The Biden administration is preparing to reopen the U.S.'s land borders with Canada and Mexico to fully vaccinated individuals traveling for nonessential reasons at some point in early November, according to senior administration officials.
An official announcement will be made Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security that will amend the restrictions, known as Title 19.
Senior administration officials previewing the announcement said the move to reopen the land borders in early November will align with a previously announced policy to loosen COVID-19 restrictions for fully vaccinated air travelers. Officials said a specific date has yet to be determined.
Unvaccinated travelers will still be prohibited from traveling to the United States for nonessential reasons until the second phase of the policy.
Beginning in early January, any foreign national travelers crossing the land borders must be fully vaccinated, whether coming for essential or nonessential reasons. A senior administration official said the phased approach will provide "ample time" for essential travelers like truckers to get vaccinated.
According to a separate senior official, Customs and Border Protection agents will be in charge of enforcing the vaccine requirement.
CBP officers will ask about vaccination status at the border, the official said, and then based on the officers' discretion, the official said some people will be sent to a secondary screening and have their documents checked.
Restrictions on cross-border travel have been renewed monthly since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The current restrictions, which were extended last month through Oct. 21, have come under heavy criticism from lawmakers and travel industry lobbyists.
The restrictions don't apply to cross-border trade, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as people traveling for medical purposes or to attend school, among others.
Currently, fully vaccinated U.S. citizens are allowed into Canada, but Canadians are not allowed to cross into the U.S. by land. Mexico is open to all travelers.
It remains unclear which vaccines the U.S. will recognize, what documentation will be needed, and whether there will be any exemptions allowed.
The separate senior administration official said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working on guidance for the specific vaccines.
The official said the CDC told airlines last week that all vaccines authorized and approved by the Food and Drug Administration as well as by the World Health Organization would meet the requirements for air travel, and while no final decision has been made, the requirements for land crossings would likely align.