TORONTO — For anyone still unsure about the United States’ new border entry rules, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is setting the record straight.
During a virtual briefing for the Canada market yesterday, held in conjunction with Brand USA and the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), CBP Branch Chief Carlo Cortina fielded various questions from media and travel agents regarding the reopening of U.S. borders on Nov. 8.
Since the reopening date, fully vaccinated, documented non-U.S. citizens have been able to cross the land borders with Canada and Mexico at ports of entry, or arrive by passenger ferry, for non-essential reasons. These travellers are required to attest to vaccination status and present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer, upon request.
All air passengers two years of age or older, on the other hand, regardless of vaccination status, must provide a negative viral COVID-19 test within three days of departure to the airline before boarding their flight to the United States (or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days), in addition to showing proof of vaccination. A viral test can be either a NAAT or antigen test, which is less expensive and yields faster results than the required molecular (ie. PCR) test that is currently required to enter Canada. Those who are not fully vaccinated must provide a negative test no more than one day prior to their flight to the U.S.
Below are some questions that Branch Chief Cortina answered during yesterday’s briefing. In addition, scroll down for an update from Air Canada’s Timothy Liu, Managing Director of Sales Planning, who also participated yesterday.
If I’ve already recovered from COVID-19, what documentation do I need to enter the United States?
“Those who recently recovered from COVID-19 may travel with documentation of recovery. This can be a letter from a licenced healthcare provider or public health official indicating that the patient is cleared for travel.
What can be done about the long wait times at the border?
“Since Nov. 8, CBP has seen an increase in travel volume and wait times at our land ports of entry and we expect the volume to continue to rise as we approach the holidays. Travellers should be prepared with the correct information and documentation to improve and expedite the travel experience.
“Non-citizen travellers should be prepared for the following:
- Possess a WHITI (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative)-compliant document such as a valid passport and a Visa where required
- Possess proof of an approved COVID-19 vaccination as outlined on the CDC website
- During inspection, verbally attest to their travel intent (ie. non-essential) and COVID-19 vaccination status
“This is all important, especially as travel resumes. This is why you expect delays and longer wait times at border crossings because our process may be the same, but there are additional questions that have to be asked at the land border and at the airport. We encourage travellers to have the correct documentation ready to show CBP officers at the time of inspection. Travellers can also take advantage of CBP programs like facial biometrics or the CBP One Mobile App, which serves as a single portal to a variety of CBP services that can help expedite travel.”
What vaccines are accepted?
“The CDC has developed orders and guidance to implement required vaccines for air travellers. Land border travel will mirror the same guidance. All FDA approved and authorized vaccines as well as vaccines that have an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization will be accepted.”
Click here for the CDC’s list of approved or authorized vaccines.
What happens in January 2022 at the land border?
Individuals engaged in essential travel are not required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at this time. Starting in January 2022, however, all inbound foreign national travellers seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry or ferry terminals – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination.
“The restrictions that have been lifted have been done in two phases when it comes to essential and non-essential travel. The stringent and consistent exceptions for non-essential travel do not negate the public health restrictions on our land border. In January 2022, documented non-citizens travelling across the land border for both essential and non-essential reasons will be required to be fully vaccinated.”
What if my name on my COVID-19 proof of vaccination and passport do not match? (ie. maiden name on one, married name on the other)
“Our officers have seen this happen, when sometimes the Visa or the passport is missing one of the last names. You would want to have your documentation as accurate as possible but it’s on a case by case basis. I’m not going to tell you it’s not approved – as long as your name is on there and has one of your last names and you can attest to having the vaccine, that officer will go through his or her inspection. Each inspection is different. So long as they’re able to have your date of birth and have other biometric information that could compare you, that will suffice.
“What I will say is bring your medical card or support documentation that shows your maiden name or other name that’s not accurate to another document. If you have supporting documentation, I would say that’s always better in case there’s conflicting information between documents.”
What about travellers who absolutely refuse to get a vaccine?
“We’ve provided what the requirements are to travel and what documents are needed to travel, and we’ve outlined that on the Nov. 8 reopening. Travel resumption is for non-essential, vaccinated and documented persons. That’s what the regulations are. We inspect everybody who applies and present themselves for inspection. Each inspection is different and unique.”
Will entry rules change as more people receive COVID-19 booster shots?
“Our guidance provided for Nov. 8 travel resumption does not include or has reference to boosters. I can’t speak as to where CDC regulations or guidelines are going to be in the future so I would defer the question to the CDC.”
AN UPDATE FROM AIR CANADA
According to Air Canada’s Timothy Liu, the airline is “definitely seeing strong signs of growth” and expects to return to a more normal Canada-USA air travel market. Though recovery for the transborder market has been a little slower than domestic U.S. recovery, Q3 in 2022 is shaping up to be very busy, with a ramp up in early booking up until then.
“We’re also seeing a lot more premium leisure demand on top of the VFR and, of course, the return of business hopefully in Q1 and Q2 of 2022,” said Liu.
This year in Q3 and Q4, he added, Air Canada saw very strong demand for the United States.
“We are making sure that we are pricing correctly to capture that premium leisure demand with better pricing, price points and also more flexibility in our fares,” said Liu. “All to say, this holiday season we’re expecting to be very strong and we definitely see that trend continue to build into Q1 and Q2 of next year and culminating in a very, very busy Q3 of 2022.”
Liu encouraged viewers to reference Air Canada’s Travel Ready Hub for the most up-to-date travel requirements, which are now being updated by Sherpa, a leading provider of travel information. Other recent initiatives taken by Air Canada to simplify the travel process include new portable, government-approved PCR test kits for travellers, the incorporation of the attestation process into the Air Canada website and mobile apps, CleanCare+ kits on flights for all customers, as well as enhanced safety protocols at reopened premium lounges.
“We are normalizing, we are continuing to go back to normal and we are hopeful that customers will experience a more normal travel experience as well,” said Liu.