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Bulletin | Covid-19

Are Unvaccinated Foreign Nationals Including Truck Drivers Allowed to Enter the US?

Fasken
Reading Time 4 minute read

Overview

Immigration Bulletin

Introduction

On January 22, 2022, the United States updated the vaccination requirements to enter the United States through land ports of entry and ferry terminals for individual travelers who are neither US citizens nor lawful permanent residents. This bulletin will provide a summary of the current vaccination requirements for inbound non-US individual travelers, including cross-border truck drivers.

What Are the New Vaccination Requirements to Enter the US via a Land Border or Ferry Terminal?

Effective January 22, 2022, the United States requires all non-U.S. individual travelers (i.e., individual travelers who are neither US citizens nor lawful permanent residents) seeking entry to the United States at the land ports of entry and ferry terminals to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 regardless of whether they are travelling for essential or non-essential reasons. At the port of entry, a foreign national will need to verbally attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status and provide proof of full vaccination upon request. US citizens and permanent residents can return to the United States without proof of full vaccination. However, in order for US citizens and permanent residents to board an airplane in Canada to return to the United States they will need to be fully vaccinated unless they meet one of the limited vaccination exemptions.

Prior to January 22, 2022, foreign nationals were allowed to enter the United States for essential travel, including lawful trade, emergency response, and public health purposes. Lawful trade included truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada.[1] However, effective January 22, 2022, cross-border truck drivers must be fully vaccinated to enter the United States.

Are There Exemptions to the New Vaccination Requirement to Enter the US via a Land Border or Ferry Terminal?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided a narrow list of exemptions to the vaccination requirement; namely: 

  1. Certain categories of individuals on diplomatic or official foreign government travel as specified in the CDC Order; 
  2. Children under 18 years of age; 
  3. Individuals with medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine as specified in the CDC Order; 
  4. Individuals issued humanitarian or emergency exceptions by the Secretary of Homeland Security; 
  5. Members of the US Armed Forces or their spouses and children (under 18 years of age) as specified in the CDC Order; and 
  6. Individuals whose entry would be in the US national interest, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. 

Should There Be a Temporary Exemption for Cross-Border Truck Drivers?

Trucking industry officials have been expressing concern that the cross-border vaccine requirements could impact the already stressed supply chain as fleets reschedule drivers and specific runs to accommodate mandates. Accordingly, the vaccine requirement could further hamper delivery of essential goods, including food, for both the United States and Canada. The governments of both countries are monitoring the situation.

What Are the Vaccination Requirements to Enter the US by Air?

Effective October 25, 2021, the United States requires non-US individual travelers seeking to enter the United States by air to be fully vaccinated. Some of the exemptions to the vaccination requirements include:[2]

  1. Children under 18 years of age;
  2. Persons with documented medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine;
  3. Persons issued humanitarian or emergency exceptions;
  4. Persons with valid visas, excluding business and tourism visas, who are citizens of a foreign country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability;
  5. Persons whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Transportation, or Secretary of Homeland Security.

In addition, with limited exceptions, individuals must show a negative antigen test taken no more than one day before boarding a flight to the US.

Conclusion

The United States and Canada have increased entry restrictions for foreign nationals who are not fully vaccinated. Non-U.S. individual travelers now need to be fully vaccinated in order to travel to the United States, even for essential reasons, unless they meet one of the limited exemptions to the vaccination requirement. A similar requirement was introduced in Canada on January 15, 2022.

Due to the evolving COVID-19 situation in the United States, new immigration policies are often introduced with short notice. To prevent delays in your global mobility plan, it is recommended that you contact your legal counsel for immigration as early as possible. If you have any questions regarding how the current immigration policies in the United States may apply to your company, please contact Douglas Tsoi, Stephanie Heinsohn-Spiropoulos or Daniel Lee.


[1] Temporary Travel Restrictions to Land Borders and Ferry Service between the United States, Canada and Mexico

[2] Requirement for Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination for Air Passengers

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