The United States has decided to reopen its land borders with Mexico and Canada to non-essential travel next month, but only fully vaccinated travelers can enter.

The new decision will put an end to a 19-month freeze due to the COVID pandemic, the Associated Press reported.

In a statement released on Tuesday, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the new rules will allow fully vaccinated foreign travelers to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November. 

"We will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings," said Mayorkas.

A similar easing of restrictions will also be imposed for air travel into the country next month. Even essential travelers seeking to enter the United States, such as truck drivers and healthcare workers, will need to be fully vaccinated by mid-January.

"Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy. We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner," Mayorkas noted.

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Lifting Border Restrictions

U.S. lawmakers praised the move to lift the restrictions, which had impacted the economies of local communities and prevented visits to friends and families, Reuters reported.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said "members of our shared cross-border community" had felt the pain and burden of economic hardship due to the border closures since the pandemic started.

However, officials from President Joe Biden's administration noted that the White House would not remove the "Title 42" order, which was put in place by the administration of former President Donald Trump.

The Title 42 order has essentially broken off access to asylum for hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. from Mexico.

One of the officials said the Biden administration was creating a consistent series of protocols for all foreign nationals eyeing to travel into the U.S.

Sen. Maria Cantwell noted that the announcement would be a great relief to those waiting to see friends and loved ones from Canada.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said agents at the border would accept the use by international travelers of COVID vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization.

However, it is not yet known whether the U.S. will accept vaccines from visitors who received doses of two different COVID vaccines.

According to USA Today, vaccines that were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and WHO include Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

Canada has about 73 percent of its population fully vaccinated, while Mexico has managed to fully vaccinate 38 percent of its population. The U.S. has vaccinated 57 percent of its population.

USA Today reported that the U.S. upholding its border restrictions on Canada had drawn backlash after Canada has presented high vaccination rates.

Foreign travelers will have to show their vaccination status in either a paper or digital format. The CDC is expected to announce soon what sort of paperwork will be accepted at the border.

Agents of Customs and Border Protection will be responsible for the enforcement of the vaccine requirement, The Hill reported.

The border restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and people traveling for medical purposes, attending school, among other reasons.

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This article is owned by Latin Post.

Written by: Mary Webber

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