The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that the U.S. will lift restrictions at the country’s land borders with Canada and Mexico next month, allowing fully-vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the country at the crossings for the first time in 19 months.
The Department of Homeland Security said it will reopen travel across the ports of entry in November for non-essential purposes, like visiting friends or for tourism. Travelers will need to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus.
The rules will extend to all inbound foreign travelers in January. These visitors will also be required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in order to enter via the crossings. Unvaccinated travelers will continue to be barred from entering the U.S. via the borders with Canada and Mexico.
The exact date of the shift in November will be announced in the coming days.
“Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”
The move drew quick praise from lawmakers in border states. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Reuters the pandemic had caused an era of “pain and economic hardship” that was now “about to end.”
The New York Times reported that the shift would align the country’s border policies across all ports of entry and build on President Joe Biden’s announcement last month that lifted bans on foreign travelers arriving via air from overseas. The effort was seen as a boon to the languishing travel tourism industry as well as a step to reunite families kept apart by the pandemic.
The nation’s travel restrictions were first instituted in March 2020, although many people were exempt from the rules, including returning U.S. citizens.