EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – U.S. authorities on Jan. 22 will begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination from all foreigners entering the country, including those who come here for school, work or to do business. Non-compliance could result in people being turned back.
The federal government on Nov. 8 lifted non-essential land travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreigners but has continued to exempt essential travelers from the vaccine requirement. This will change next month.
“Foreign nationals traveling across the land border for both essential and non-essential reasons will be required to be fully vaccinated. This includes individuals who have previously been crossing the border for essential travel, such as work or medical appointments,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.
U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents of the U.S. will not be required to provide proof of vaccination when crossing into the U.S. The requirements also do not apply to those ages 17 and under.
The change might affect enclaves of the U.S.-Mexico border where vaccination rates are low, but it’s unlikely to cripple international trade in the El Paso, Texas-Juarez, Mexico corridor where rates are high, some observers say.
El Paso County as of Thursday reported a 73.6% full vaccination rate among residents over 5 years old and a 92.5% rate among those 65 and over. Juarez does not post vaccination rates but officials there said more than 80% of their population has been vaccinated.
“(Mexican) Truck drivers who go back and forth across the border are considered essential workers and they were never necessarily under the (travel restrictions) ban,” said Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the Border Industrial Association. “Now they have to show proof of the vaccine and I think that’s alright. There was ample time for people to get prepared for that, especially the essential workers.”
Manufacturers and other U.S.-based companies that do business in Mexico are typically compliant with regulations and likely have already informed their employees about the change coming Jan. 22.
“Those workers, either through company programs, their insurance or just (off-site) clinics should have been able to get the vaccine by now,” Pacheco said.
U.S. citizens also have had plenty of time to get vaccinated but – unlike foreigners – the U.S. can’t deny them re-entry to their own country, he added.
CBP officials say visa holders can verbally declare compliance with the vaccination requirement to the officer at the port of entry. They should have proof of vaccination ready in case the officer asks for it. CBP says not every individual will be asked to show the document but is required to carry it.