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US-Mexico Border Reopening: What you need to know

Starting Monday, Nov. 8 the border reopened to nonessential travel for the first time since March 2020.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Starting Monday the border between the United States and Mexico reopened to non-essential travel. The border had been closed since March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Here are some of the things you may want to know if you plan to cross the border into San Diego: 

Are COVID vaccinations required to cross the US-Mexico Border for non-essential travel?

Yes. Whether crossing at a land port of entry or by ferry terminal, travelers are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when crossing the border for non-essential travel. That applies if they are 18 or over. 

If someone under the age of 18 wants to cross the border without being vaccinated, they can do so with a vaccinated adult. 

These requirements do not apply to U.S. citizens, permanent residents (including those with commuter status), foreign-born individuals aged 17 or under, or foreign-born travelers engaged in activities deemed essential (including H1b and H2b visa holders).

Do I need my vaccine card when crossing the border?

Customs and Border Patrol officers will accept verifiable paper or digital proof of vaccination. The CDC website outlines verifiable forms of proof of vaccination here

Which vaccines are being accepted at the border? 

According to the CDC, for purposes of entry into the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA-approved or authorized and WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines. More information is available here.

COVID-19 vaccines currently approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson [J&J]/Janssen

COVID-19 vaccines that have been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization include: AstraZeneca/Oxford, Sinopharm, Sinovac and five others as of Nov. 3, 2021.

Besides my proof of vaccination, what should I expect when crossing the border?

In addition to checking proof of vaccination, officers will ask travelers to verbally attest to their reason for travel and their COVID-19 vaccination status during inspection.

“The first step is the verbal attestation, but at any point where the officer may request it, they should have a vaccination card available to present,” said Matthew Davies, Executive Director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Not all travelers will be asked to show proof of vaccination. CBP officials said it will be done at random so travelers should be ready but not everyone will be stopped.

"Any non-citizen attempting to enter the United States through illegal means or without appropriate documentation may be subject to expulsion or removal," according to the Department of Homeland Security website.

Do I need to be vaccinated if I am crossing the border for essential travel?

Those crossing the border for essential travel will not be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at the current time. However, starting in January all inbound travelers will be required to show proof of vaccination.

Other reminders when crossing the border: 

  • “Travelers are being reminded to bring a Western Hemisphere travel initiative document such as a valid US passport, a trusted traveler program card or an enhanced driver's license when re-entering the country," an officer at San Ysidro Port of Entry said. 
  • San Diego’s port of entries are expecting heavy travel and high wait times next week and continuing into the holiday season. Officers are asking non-essential travelers to cross at times other than peak hours.
  • To help reduce wait times and long lines, travelers can use the CBP OneTM app to process their I-94 permit and access other services and are highly encouraged to avoid rush hour traffic (4 - 9 a.m.).  
  • Non-U.S. citizens need a valid passport or visa when crossing into the U.S. 

More information can be found on the DHS fact sheet here


WATCH RELATED: CBP provides update on US-Mexico border reopening plans  - Nov. 2, 2021

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