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Frequently Asked Questions: Guidance for Travelers to Enter the U.S.

Release Date: 
October 29, 2021

Updated Date: November 23, 2021

Effective Monday, November 8, 2021, new requirements apply to travelers entering the United States.

For the first time since March 2020, travelers who are not U.S. persons (i.e., U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents) will be permitted to enter the United States through a land port of entry (POE) or ferry terminal for a non-essential reason (e.g., tourism), provided they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and can present proof of COVID-19 vaccination status, in accordance with CDC guidelines. Those engaged in essential travel, including lawful trade, emergency response, and public health purposes, will not be required to be vaccinated at this time. Starting in January 2022, however, all inbound non-U.S. persons crossing U.S. land POEs or ferry terminals – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination.

Additionally, also effective November 8, 2021, new air travel requirements apply to many non-citizens who are visiting the United States temporarily. These travelers are also required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. All air travelers, including U.S. persons, must test negative for COVID-19 prior to departure. LImited exceptions apply. See CDC guidance for more details.

The following are answers to frequently asked questions regarding the new rules.

Entering the U.S. Through a Land Port of Entry or Ferry Terminal

Q. On November 8, the United States lifted travel restrictions for non-U.S. persons who are fully vaccinated. What changed?

A. Title 19 restrictions are still in place. But effective November 8, 2021, non-U.S. persons who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation can seek to enter the United States from Canada and Mexico at land POEs or arrive in the United States by passenger ferry for non-essential reasons, such as to visit friends or family or for tourism. These travelers are required to be prepared to attest to vaccination status and present proof of being fully vaccinated to a CBP officer upon request. Starting in January, both essential and non-essential travelers will be required to be fully vaccinated.

Q: How and where will travelers be able to find answers to their questions about this new policy?

A: Approved vaccinations and required documentation for travel at land POEs mirror the requirements for international air travel. Those details are available on the CDC website.

Q. What types of vaccinations will be accepted?

A. CDC has determined that all FDA approved and authorized vaccines, as well as all vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization will be accepted for air travel. Travel at land POEs will mirror the same guidelines.

Accepted Vaccines:

  • CDC has determined that for purposes of travel to the United States, vaccines accepted will include current FDA approved or authorized vaccines and World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines.
  • Individuals are considered fully vaccinated:
    • 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose COVID-19 vaccine;
    • 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series;
    • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial;
    • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of a Novavax (or Covovax) COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a phase 3 clinical trial; or
    • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart.
  • More details are available in CDC guidance here.

Q. What are the requirements for travelers entering the United States through land POEs?

A. Before embarking on your trip to the United States, travelers who are non-U.S. persons should be prepared for the following:

  • Possess proof of an approved COVID-19 vaccination as outlined on the CDC website.
  • During border inspection, verbally attest to their travel intent and COVID-19 vaccination status.
  • All travelers are reminded to bring a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative compliant document, such as a valid passport (and visa if required), Trusted Traveler Program card, Border Crossing Card, Enhanced Driver’s License or Enhanced Tribal Card when entering the country. Travelers (including U.S. citizens) should be prepared to present the WHTI-compliant document and any other documents requested by the CBP officer.

Q. What are the requirements to enter the United States for children under the age of 18 who can't be vaccinated?

A. Children under 18 years of age will be excepted from the vaccination requirement at land and ferry POEs.

Q. Do you expect border wait times to increase?

A. As travel begins to resume, travel volumes and wait times are expected to increase. Travelers should plan for longer than normal wait times and long lines at U.S. land border crossings when planning their trip and are reminded to exercise patience.

To help reduce wait times and long lines, travelers can take advantage of innovative technology, such as facial biometrics and the CBP OneTM mobile application, which serves as a single portal for individuals to access CBP mobile applications and services.

Q: How is Customs and Border Protection staffing the ports of entry, given the expectation of longer wait times and lines when the new rules go into effect?

CBP is doing everything it can to be prepared for November 8 and allocating resources as done pre-pandemic. Long lines are expected in the initial days following pent-up demand, and CBP will continue to adjust its resources as needed, while balancing its trade facilitation and national security missions. Travelers are advised to expect longer wait times and to assist the process by familiarizing themselves with the new guidelines and having appropriate documentation ready ahead of time.

Q: How will the Title 19 modifications affect U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents?

A: U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and those traveling for essential reasons are exempt from the non-essential travel restrictions on entry at U.S. land POEs. U.S. citizens returning to the United States at a land POE need to present themselves for inspection by presenting a WHTI-compliant document to ensure the inspection process is streamlined.

The CBP One I-94 features are not intended for use by U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, foreign travelers with immigrant visas, or most Canadian citizens visiting the United States, as these particular travelers do not need I-94s.

Q: Do U.S. citizens need proof of vaccination to return to the United States via land POEs and ferry terminals?

A: Vaccination requirements do not apply to U.S. Citizens, lawful permanent residents, or anyone crossing for an essential reason. Travelers that exhibit signs or symptoms of illness will be referred to the CDC for additional medical evaluation.

Q: Do individuals need proof of a negative COVID-19 test like you do to travel by plane?

A: No. There is not a COVID-19 testing requirement for travelers at land POEs.

Q: What happens if someone doesn’t have proof of vaccine status?

A: If a non-U.S. person traveling for non-essential purposes does not possess proof of vaccination, they will not be admitted and will be allowed to withdraw their application for entry.

Q: What documentation is accepted as proof of vaccine?

A: Documentation accepted as proof of vaccination is outlined on the CDC website.

Q: What constitutes essential travel?

A: Essential travel includes, but is not limited to:

  • Citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States.
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States).
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions.
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada or Mexico in furtherance of such work).
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies).
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada and Mexico).
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel.
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.

Q: What happens if a vaccinated individual is traveling with an un-vaccinated individual?

A: The unvaccinated individual (if 18 or over), if traveling for a non-essential reason, and not otherwise exempted, would not be eligible for admission.

Q: If I am traveling for an essential reason but am not vaccinated can I still enter?

A: Yes. The current changes to the Title 19 travel restriction apply to non-essential travel by non-U.S. persons. However, beginning in early January 2022, DHS will require that all inbound non-U.S. persons crossing U.S. land or ferry POEs – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination.

Q: Are crew members on vessels required to have a COVID vaccine to disembark?

A: Commercial vessels and crew are not subject to these travel restrictions.

Entering the U.S. via Air Travel

Q: What are the COVID vaccination requirements for air passengers to the United States?

A: According to CDC requirements, most non-citizens who are visiting the United States temporarily must be fully vaccinated prior to boarding a flight to the United States. These travelers are required to show proof of vaccination. A list of covered individuals is available on the CDC website.

Q: What are the COVID testing requirements for air passengers to the United States?

A: According to CDC requirements, all air passengers two years of age or older traveling internationally, regardless of vaccination status, must provide a negative test to the airline before boarding the flight. Passengers who are fully vaccinated must provide a negative test no more than three days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country, in addition to showing proof of vaccination. Passengers eligible to travel (U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents or others who fall under the limited exemptions) over two years of age who are not fully vaccinated must provide a negative test no more than one day before the flight’s departure. Those who recently recovered from COVID-19 may travel with documentation of recovery and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or public health official indicating the patient is cleared for travel. For more information on this requirement, please visit the CDC International Travel webpage.


Last Published Date: November 24, 2021
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