On March 24, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) announced in a notice temporary travel restrictions for land ports of entry and ferries service between the United States and Mexico and the United States and Canada. Effective as of March 20 and lasting until April 20, CBP is implementing the measures in order to curb the transmission and spread of COVID-19 between the US and its neighboring countries. The announcement stated that the land ports of entry along the borders will process for entry only those travelers engaged in “essential travel,” as defined below.
The CBP notice stated 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 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);
- 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.
The following travel does not fall within the definition of “essential travel”:
- Individuals traveling for tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events).
The notice does not apply to air, freight rail, or sea travel between the US and Canada and the US and Mexico, but does apply to passenger rail and ferry travel between the countries. “This temporary alteration in land ports of entry operations should not interrupt legitimate trade between the two nations or disrupt critical supply chains that ensure food, fuel, medicine, and other critical materials reach individuals on both sides of the border,” the notice stated.
In addition, on March 20, the U.S. and Mexican governments issued a joint statement that essential travel across the countries’ borders must continue unimpeded during this time. In order to ensure that essential travel can continue, the US and Mexico put in place a temporary restriction on all “non-essential” travel, which is considered tourism or recreational in nature, on Saturday, March 21 for a 30-day period until April 20, subject to extension upon review.