COVID-19: U.S., Mexico and Canada: Temporary Travel Restrictions for Land Ports of Entry & Ferry Service
UPDATE – APRIL 22, 2020: On April 20, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an order extending the suspension of entry of certain persons traveling to the US from Canada and Mexico through land ports of entry through 11:59 pm ET on May 20, 2020.
The United States reached mutual agreements with Canada and Mexico to limit non-essential travel at land Ports of Entry and ferry terminals to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions do not apply to air travel.
The restrictions are effective as of March 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. EDT and will remain in effect until at least April 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.
Restricted Non-Essential Travel
Restricted non-essential travel includes individuals traveling to the U.S. for tourism purposes, including sightseeing, recreation, gambling or attending cultural events.
Essential travel is permitted. On March 24, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published Federal Register notices with additional information about impacted travel from Canada and Mexico, specifying that essential travel includes, but is not limited to:
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
- Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
- Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
- Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Mexico or Canada in furtherance of such work);
- Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
- Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Mexico or Canada);
- Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
- Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.
Essential Travel Caution
Despite CBP’s fairly broad definition of essential travel, not all business travel may be deemed essential by a CBP officer at a Port of Entry. The American Immigration Lawyers Association is reporting that CBP officers at some Ports of Entry on the Canadian border continue to adjudicate L petitions and TN applications, while at other ports, CBP indicates it is waiting for more guidance. There are also anecdotal reports that some CBP officers have denied petitions and admission to individuals because their employment was not deemed essential.
With respect to travel from Mexico, U.S. consular closures in Mexico directly impact the ability to secure L and TN visas for admission to the U.S.
Travelers with valid visas and visa exempt travelers, including individuals traveling on the Visa Waiver Program, may be admitted at Ports of Entry from Canada or Mexico, though these travelers should also expect scrutiny as to whether their travel meets essential travel criteria. Individuals planning to enter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico during the restricted period should confer with counsel prior to travel.
As a reminder, foreign nationals who have traveled in one of the otherwise restricted countries (China, Iran and Europe) in the 14 days prior to requesting admission to the U.S. from Canada or Mexico will not be admitted.
Finally, CBP advises that any person with COVID-19 symptoms should not make a personal appearance at a Port of Entry.
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