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

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

Release Date: October 29, 2021

Updated Date: April 21, 2022

Since January 22, 2022, DHS has required non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination upon request.  On April 21, 2022, DHS announced that it would extend these requirements. In determining whether and when to rescind this order, DHS anticipates that it will take account of whether the vaccination requirement for non-U.S. air travelers remains in place.

These requirements apply to non-U.S. individuals who are traveling for essential or non-essential reasons. They do not apply to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, or U.S. nationals.

Effective November 8, 2021, new air travel requirements applied to many noncitizens 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 regarding air travel requirements.

Below is more information about what to know before you go, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions about cross-border travel.

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

A: Before embarking on a trip to the United States, non-U.S. travelers 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 COVID-19 vaccination status. 
  • Bring a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative compliant border crossing document, such as a valid passport (and visa if required), Trusted Traveler Program card, a Department of State-issued 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 are excepted from the vaccination requirement at land and ferry POEs.

Q: Which vaccines/combination of vaccines will be accepted?

A: Per CDC guidelines, all Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved and authorized vaccines, as well as all vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization (WHO), will be accepted.

Accepted Vaccines:

  • CDC has determined that vaccines accepted for purposes of travel to the United States will include current FDA approved and authorized vaccines and WHO EUL vaccines.
    • More details are available in CDC guidance here.
  • 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 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart.

Q. Is the United States requiring travelers to have a booster dose to be considered fully vaccinated for border entry purposes?

A: No. The CDC guidance for “full vaccination” can be found here.

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

A: No. Vaccination requirements do not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs). Travelers that exhibit signs or symptoms of illness will be referred to CDC for additional medical evaluation.

Q: Is pre- or at-arrival COVID testing required to enter the United States via land POEs or ferry terminals?

A: No, there is no COVID testing requirement to enter the United States via land POE or ferry terminals. In this respect, the requirement for entering by a land POE or ferry terminal differs from arrival via air, where there is a requirement to have a negative test result before departure.

Q: New changes were recently announced. What changed on January 22?

A: Since January 22, 2022, non-citizens who are not U.S. nationals or Lawful Permanent Residents have been required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the United States at land ports of entry and ferry terminals, whether for essential or nonessential purposes. Previously, DHS required that non-U.S. persons be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the United States for nonessential purposes.  Effective January 22, all non-U.S. individuals, to include essential travelers, must be prepared to attest to vaccination status and present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer upon request. DHS announced an extension of this policy on April 21, 2022.

Q: Who is affected by the changes announced on January 22?

A: This requirement does not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents. It applies to other noncitizens, such as a citizen of Mexico, Canada, or any other country seeking to enter the United States through a land port of entry or ferry terminal.

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

A: Vaccination requirements do not apply to U.S. Citizens, U.S. nationals or U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents. Travelers that exhibit signs or symptoms of illness will be referred to CDC for additional medical evaluation. 

Q: What is essential travel?

A: Under the prior policy, there was an exception from temporary travel restrictions for “essential travel.” Essential travel included travel to attend educational institutions, travel to work in the United States, travel for emergency response and public health purposes, and travel for lawful cross-border trade (e.g., commercial truckers). Under current policy, there is no exception for essential travel.

Q: Will there be any exemptions? 

A: While most non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States will need to be vaccinated, there is a narrow list of exemptions consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Order in the air travel context.

  • Certain categories of individuals on diplomatic or official foreign government travel as specified in the CDC Order
  • Children under 18 years of age;
  • Certain participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials as specified in the CDC Order;   
  • Individuals with medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine as specified in the CDC Order;
  • Individuals issued a humanitarian or emergency exception by the Secretary of Homeland Security;
  • Individuals with valid nonimmigrant visas (excluding B-1 [business] or B-2 [tourism] visas) who are citizens of a country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability, as specified in the CDC Order
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age) as specified in the CDC Order; and
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the U.S. national interest, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Q: What documentation will be required to show vaccination status?

A: Non-U.S. individuals are required to be prepared to attest to vaccination status and present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer upon request regardless of the purpose of travel.

The current documentation requirement remains the same and is available on the CDC website. Documentation requirements for entry at land ports of entry and ferry terminals mirror those for entry by air.

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

A: If non-U.S. individuals cannot present proof of vaccination upon request, they will not be admitted into the United States and will either be subject to removal or be allowed to withdraw their application for entry.

Q: Will incoming travelers be required to present COVID-19 test results?

A: There is no COVID-19 testing requirement for travelers at land border ports of entry, including ferry terminals.

Q: What does this mean for those who can't be vaccinated, either due to age or other health considerations? 

A: See CDC guidance for additional information on this topic. Note that the vaccine requirement does not apply to children under 18 years of age.

Q: Does this requirement apply to amateur and professional athletes?

A: Yes, unless they qualify for one of the narrow CDC exemptions.

Q: Are commercial truckers required to be vaccinated?

A: Yes, unless they qualify for one of the narrow CDC exemptions. These requirements also apply to bus drivers as well as rail and ferry operators.

Q. Do you expect border wait times to increase?

A: As travelers navigate these new travel requirements, wait times may increase. Travelers should account for the possibility of longer than normal wait times and lines at U.S. land border crossings when planning their trip and are kindly encouraged 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? 

A: CBP’s current staffing levels at ports of entry throughout the United States are commensurate with pre-pandemic levels. CBP has continued to hire and train new employees throughout the pandemic. CBP expects some travelers to be non-compliant with the proof of vaccination requirements, which may at times lead to an increase in border wait times. Although trade and travel facilitation remain a priority, we cannot compromise national security, which is our primary mission. CBP Office of Field Operations will continue to dedicate its finite resources to the processing of arriving traffic with emphasis on trade facilitation to ensure economic recovery.

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

A: The unvaccinated individual (if 18 or over) would not be eligible for admission.

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

A: No, if you are a non-U.S. individual. The policy announced on January 22, 2022 applies to both essential and non-essential travel by non-U.S. individual travelers. Since January 22, DHS has required that all inbound non-U.S. individuals 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 upon request.

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

A: Sea crew members traveling pursuant to a C-1 or D nonimmigrant visa are not excepted from COVID-19 vaccine requirements at the land border. This is a difference from the international air transportation context.

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

A: According to CDC requirements, most noncitizens 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 Updated: 04/21/2022
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