Frequently Asked Questions: Guidance for Travelers to Enter the U.S. | Homeland Security (2024)

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.

Frequently Asked Questions: Guidance for Travelers to Enter the U.S. | Homeland Security (2024)
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