United States land borders reopen to fully vaccinated Canadians

After more than 20 months, British Columbians can now travel freely across the border to the United States. 

As of Monday, the United States has reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air, land or passenger ferry.

Air travellers will need to show proof of vaccination on arrival in the U.S. but will also still need to show a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of boarding their flight.

Non-essential travellers crossing at a land border will be required to show proof of vaccination or attest to their vaccination status upon request by a border agent — but unlike air travellers they will face no requirement to show a negative COVID-19 test.

Canada is still requiring all travellers entering the country to provide proof of a negative test, regardless of their point of entry.

​​The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travel since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Canada opened its border to U.S. travellers in early August.

The Canada-U.S. Douglas-Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Ben Nelms)

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, who was outspoken about the border remaining open in the early days of the pandemic as cases quickly spread in Washington state, said the reopening is welcomed now as rates of vaccination are high in B.C. and Washington state.

“This will make things better but it’s really important as well to say to everybody that if you want to do that you have to get vaccinated, which is true, and secondly to be cautious,” he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said it will consider people with mixed doses fully vaccinated, as long as the vaccines are authorized by either the Food and Drug Administration or the World Heath Organization.

That means Canadians who received any combination of the AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines will be allowed to cross the border when it reopens Monday.

Test for returnCross-border trips from B.C. into Washington state are frequently taken by Canadians to shop, visit family or pick up parcels and are often less than 72 hours in duration.

So far, the federal government is sticking by its requirement for all travellers returning to Canada, no matter the distance travelled or length of stay, to provide proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their flights’ departure or planned arrival at a land border.

For trips that last less than 72 hours, Canadians, people registered under the Indian Act, permanent residents and protected persons travelling to the U.S. can take their molecular test in Canada before travelling to the U.S. and use it upon return.

Dix said that the test requirement could delay travel over the border, but he is supportive of the federal government decision to, so far, keep it in place.

“They are being prudent about it and they should,” he said. “They want to keep people safe.”

The Department of Homeland Security said in a release that wait times could increase at borders and that travellers should give themselves added time and be patient.

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