Reopening of US borders: A how-to guide

We have all been eagerly awaiting the reopening of the US borders.

If you are planning a USA road trip, you're probably wondering how things will play out.

Here is all the information available on travelling to the US under the current situation

#1. When can I travel to the US? 

opening of US borders 2021
When will the US reopen its borders?

On September 20th, the White House announced that the United States is reopening its international borders to fully vaccinated travellers

This announcement, which comes almost 20 months after the borders closed, indicates that international travel will be possible as of early November 2021

The official reopening date is November 8, 2021.

This announcement also applies to the US land borders with Canada and Mexico. 

#2. Who can travel to the US once the borders open?

entry restrictions USA 2021
Who can travel to the US?

International travellers who wish to visit the United States for tourism or other non-essential reasons will be allowed to enter the country provided they are fully vaccinated.

:fleche: emoji Fully vaccinated tourists

To be considered fully vaccinated, you must: 

  • Have received a single dose of the Janssen/J&J vaccine or two doses of one of the following vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covershield, Sinovac or BIBP/Sinopharm
  • Have received the second dose at least 14 days before travelling to the United States

Combinations of the vaccines listed above are also accepted. 

In addition to providing proof of vaccination, international travellers must also take a COVID-19 test within 3 days prior to boarding a flight to the US. This does not apply to travellers entering via a land border.

:fleche: emoji Exceptions:

People who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or who only received one dose after contracting COVID-19 can travel to the United States, but must present a negative COVID test result obtained within 24 hours of travel.

Children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine can travel to the United States accompanied by their vaccinated parents, but must also provide a negative COVID test result obtained within 72 hours of travel. 

Children travelling alone or with a non-vaccinated parent or parents must be tested within 24 hours prior to boarding.

Travellers entering the United States at a land border for essential reasons do not currently need to be fully vaccinated. However, this will be required as of January 2022

:fleche: emoji Quarantine 

For those mentioned in this section, there is no quarantine on arrival, unless of course you test positive on arrival or have COVID-like symptoms.


#3. Documents needed to travel to the US

who can enter the USA covid 19
What documents are needed for travel to the US?

Tourists coming to the US must provide the necessary travel documents. 

:fleche: emoji Proof of vaccination

You must present proof of vaccination in order to board an airplane to the United States. 

Vaccination proof can be in one of the following three forms:

  1. vaccination certificate with QR code or digital pass via smartphone app with QR code, issued by an official source such as a government or public health agency
  2. A paper version of a COVID-19 vaccination record or COVID-19 vaccination certificate, issued at national or subnational level or by an authorized vaccine provider
  3. A digital photo of a vaccination card or record, downloaded vaccine record or vaccination certificate from an official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider), or a mobile phone application without QR code 

All forms of proof of vaccination must include: 

  • Personal identifiers (at a minimum, full name and date of birth) that match the personal identifiers on the passenger’s passport or other travel documents
  • The name of the official source issuing the record (e.g., public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider)
  • The name of the vaccine and the date(s) of vaccination

:fleche: emoji COVID-19 test - arrival by air only

All passengers aged 2 years or older must provide a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding an airplane to the United States.

  • The test must be done within 24 hours prior to travel.
  • For your test to qualify, you must count in hours and not in days. I.e., if you will be flying to the U.S on December 20th at 3 p.m., then you must be tested at the earliest on December 19th at 3 p.m.. A test done on December 19th before 3 p.m. would not be accepted.
  • If you contracted COVID-19 within 90 days prior to travel, you may choose to provide a negative test result following recovery and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel

Only SARS-CoV-2 viral tests are accepted. These include:

  • Antigen test
  • A nucleic acid amplification test

Note: A negative test is not required to enter the United States by land. 

:fleche: emoji Other travel documents

Being fully vaccinated and providing a negative COVID test result does not exempt you from providing the usual travel documents required for entry to the United States.

These include a biometric passport valid for the duration of your stay and an ESTA or a VISA, depending on your country of origin. 


#4. Health measures while in the US

wearing a mask USA
What health measures are in place in the US?

While the borders may be reopening, that doesn't mean the pandemic is over.

You should therefore expect to comply with local health measures.

On the plane, you will have to wear a mask. Airlines may also ask you for your contact information for contact tracing purposes.

On public transport in the United States, you will always need to wear a mask. This includes buses, planes, trains, trams and subways. 

Other health measures vary from state to state and sometimes from city to city. 

:fleche: emoji Health pass

Health passes are uncommon, but there are a few.

  • New York City requires a health pass to enter restaurants, cinemas and gyms
  • Los Angeles requires proof of vaccination for bars and nightclubs

:fleche: emoji Wearing a mask

Mask mandates vary from state to state: 

masks must be worn in publiC places by everyone:
  • D.C.
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • Puerto Rico
  • Washington

masks must be worn in publiC places by non-vaccinATED people:
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • New York

The other states have no mask mandates, although some establishments may require them. 

For example, masks must be worn in all indoor spaces in national parks, as well as both indoors and outdoors in Monument Valley

So be sure to always have one with you, just in case. 


Now you are well informed and ready to plan your trip to the US.

If you have any questions or new information, don't hesitate to share in the comments below.

Karolane Lessard

An enthusiast of both our vibrant cities & great oudoors, my life revolves around travel & adventure. It's a no brainer that I have to share the wonders & secrets of my neck of the woods with other travelling souls. Enjoy the journey!


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