United States – Border Restrictions with Canada, Mexico Extended Through September 21
US–Bdr Restr. w/Canada, Mexico Extended Through Sep 21
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has extended for another month restrictions on “non-essential” travel across U.S. land border with Canada and Mexico through September 21. Restrictions on “non-essential” travel at land borders between the United States, Canada, and Mexico were originally implemented on March 21, 2020 for a period of 30 days, and have been extended each month since. The restrictions are also applicable to international travelers seeking admission to the U.S. via ferry and passenger rail, however air travel remains unaffected at this time.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced a further one-month extension of restrictions on “non-essential” travel across U.S. land border with Canada and Mexico.1 This latest extension is scheduled to last through September 21, 2020, with possible extensions beyond this date.
Restrictions on “non-essential” travel at land borders between the United States, Canada, and Mexico were originally implemented on March 21, 2020 for a period of 30 days, and have been extended each month since.2 The restrictions are also applicable to international travelers seeking admission to the U.S. via ferry and passenger rail, however air travel remains unaffected at this time.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Employees traveling to the U.S. via land borders and ferries must be prepared to explain how their employment or business activities in the U.S. can be defined as essential. As CBP has wide discretion to inspect those seeking entry, travelers should make sure they have with them documentation—including valid travel documents—further evidencing their exemption from the border restrictions.
The border restrictions will likely continue to impact employers and their employees who frequently travel between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico as business visitors. It may be prudent for employers and their employees to limit business travels, if possible, to prevent complications and the possibility of being refused entry at the border, as the situation continues to be fluid and highly discretionary. Where travel is unavoidable, travelers should confirm the state of affairs at the particular port of entry through which they would be traveling, and anticipate increased scrutiny from CBP when seeking admission to the United States.
“Essential Travel” Defined
The United States, Canada, and Mexico have confirmed that normal operations and processes for entry will be limited to only those travelers engaged in “essential travel.” CBP defines “non-essential” travel as travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has discretion to determine what qualifies as essential travel. Authorities can also determine that other forms of travel, such as those in furtherance of economic stability or social order, constitute essential travel. These determinations can extend to individual humanitarian services or other purposes in the national interest. The border restrictions will also continue to not impact trade between the countries or disrupt critical supply chains that help to ensure food, fuel, medicine, and other critical materials reach individuals on both sides of the border.
Exemption from Border Restrictions
The following is a non-exhaustive list of persons confirmed as exempt from the border restrictions on U.S. entry by land, ferry, and commuter rail: 3
- 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 in the Visa Waiver Program who are not otherwise subject to travel restrictions;
- Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
- Individuals traveling to work in the United States who hold valid travel documents (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and 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 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.
Further communications have emphasized that those who work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the DHS, have a special responsibility to maintain their normal work schedules.
Air travel continues to be unaffected at this time. However, those travelling by air should anticipate additional scrutiny from CBP officers and prepare accordingly with relevant documentation describing the critical nature of their activities in the United States.
KPMG LLP Law in Canada is tracking this matter closely. We will endeavor to keep readers of GMS Flash Alert posted on any important developments as and when they occur.
1 The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Fact Sheet announcing the extension of border restrictions between the United States, Canada, and Mexico through September 21, 2020.
2 For prior coverage of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico border restrictions, read the following issues of GMS Flash Alert: 2020-286 (June 17, 2020), 2020-240 (May 21, 2020), 2020-194 (April 23, 2020), and 2020-110 (March 25, 2020).
* Please note that KPMG LLP (U.S.) does not provide any immigration services. However, KPMG Law LLP in Canada can assist clients with U.S. immigration matters.
The information contained in this newsletter was submitted by the KPMG International member firm in Canada.
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