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US to require essential travelers to be fully vaccinated for border crossings

DHS said these new restrictions will apply to non-U.S. individuals who are traveling for both essential and non-essential reasons.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The U.S. will require essential travelers crossing into the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination starting Saturday, Jan. 22, according to the Department of Homeland Security

DHS said these new restrictions will apply to non-U.S. individuals who are traveling for both essential and non-essential reasons. They will not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or U.S. nationals. COVID-19 testing is not required for entry via a land port of entry or ferry terminal. 

For a short weekend trip to Tijuana for breakfast and a doctor's appointment, San Diego resident Mario didn't expect what typically takes him an hour to cross the border, to take three and a half hours.

Arturo Ochoa, who came from Sinaloa, Mexico to shop, was ready with his vax card.

“Yes, the CBP border agent asked me for my vaccination, and I had both, I have the Pfizer,” Ochoa said.

Arturo says he's been showing his vaccination card since DHS first required it late last year for non-essential travelers, but he didn’t expect the wait time to cross to take as long as it did today.

"Normally, the line is like about 20 minutes, maybe 50 minutes, but it is not two hours,” Ochoa said.

Border Patrol agents anticipated the long lines.

"We have seen an increase in traffic, so we are prepared,” said Taka Gordon, chief communication officer for U.S. Customs Border Patrol San Diego sector.

Gordon advises travelers to avoid the busiest times, which are Monday through Friday 4 AM to 9 AM, and on the weekends from 2 PM to 12 AM.

“Starting on January 22, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security will require that non-U.S. individuals entering the United States via land ports of entry or ferry terminals along our Northern and Southern borders be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and be prepared to show related proof of vaccination,” said Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a statement Thursday.

DHS said these changes, which were first announced in October 2021, will align public health measures that govern land travel with those that govern incoming international air travel.

Non-U.S. individuals traveling to the United States via land ports of entry or ferry terminals, whether for essential or non-essential reasons, must:

  • verbally attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status;
  • provide proof of a CDC-approved COVID-19 vaccination, as outlined on the CDC website;
  • present a valid Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document, such as a valid passport, Trusted Traveler Program card, or Enhanced Tribal Card; and,
  • be prepared to present any other relevant documents requested by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer during a border inspection.

To learn more about the updated requirements for travelers, review the DHS fact sheet.

 

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