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U.S. border officials prepare for return of Canadian travelers

U.S. border officials prepare for return of Canadian travelers

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Canada border reopens (copy)

The Queen Elizabeth Way leads to the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ont. Vaccinated Canadians will be allowed to cross starting Monday.

U.S. border officials pledged to be ready for more visitors on Monday, when fully vaccinated Canadian leisure travelers will be allowed to enter the United States through land crossings.

The U.S. has sharply limited Canadians' ability to enter through land borders since March 2020, although they have been allowed to fly over the border.

The easing of entry restrictions is welcome news for U.S. businesses who rely on an influx of Canadian visitors, including retailers and ski areas. The change will also make it easier for Canadians to attend Bills and Sabres games, and to catch flights from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Snowbirds will be able drive their own cars from Canada to Florida as the chillier weather sets in.

Elected officials including Rep. Brian Higgins have pressed the Biden administration to reopen the border to vaccinated Canadian leisure travelers, especially after Canada loosened restrictions on Americans entering Canada almost three months ago.

Here's what to know about what will happen starting Monday:

• Canadians visitors will be asked by border agents to verbally confirm they are fully vaccinated, and should be prepared to present proof of vaccination in either paper or electronic form, said Matthew Davies, executive director of admissibility and passenger programs with Customs and Border Protection's office of field operations. That's in addition to the travel documents visitors normally carry.

• Staffing at the U.S. border will be back to pre-pandemic levels, Davies said. "We know and we expect that there will be wait times as travel increases, but we expect to have a full complement of staffing to handle this surge as travel resumes," he said in a Tuesday media briefing.

According to Peace Bridge statistics, the number of autos and buses crossing the span from Canada to the United States in September was down about 78% from the same month in 2019, before the pandemic hit.

• Canadian children 17 and under won't have to be vaccinated to enter the U.S., as long as they are accompanying a fully vaccinated adult.

• Canadians won't have to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test to enter the U.S., but they still face a testing rule to return home. The Canadian government requires them to have a negative Covid-19 test that is no more than 72 hours old by the time they re-enter Canada.

That means Canadians can take a Covid test before traveling to the United States, as long as they return within the 72-hour window. If their test result is over 72 hours old, Canadians will need to take a new test in the United States in order to return home.

Peace Bridge

The U.S. will open its land border to fully vaccinated Canadian travelers on Monday. 

• The U.S. will count Canadians with "mixed" vaccination – someone who has received shots produced by two different companies – as fully vaccinated.

Canadians traveling to the United States can also be inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been approved for emergency use authorization by the World Health Organization, but not by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

• Customs and Border Protection is "laser focused" on encouraging its employees to get vaccinated ahead of a Nov. 22 deadline for federal employees, Davies said. That approaching deadline has raised concerns about whether federal agencies would have sufficient staffing workers.

Matt Glynn

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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Related to this story

  • Updated

The opening comes nearly three months after Canada opened its land borders to vaccinated Americans. However, significant differences will remain over how the two nations manage their newly reopened land border crossings.

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