My title’s wording was a trap! NOTHING has changed because the US has not changed its rules! It’s Canada that changed its entry rules on April 1st, not the US. So many people have a hard time understanding that the rules are separate that we really wanted to get the message across!
But even if nothing changed, it was the 1st time I entered the US by land during the pandemic (the 6 times I went there in the last year were always by air).
So I’ll share my account of how it was to get in (plus a teaser of the possible changes that might come soon at the end).
For fully vaccinated travelers, Canada lifted its test requirement on Friday April 1st, so many are interested in going across the border for a change of scenery now that it can be done 100% test-free and that it’s very close to being back to normal — yesterday, I shared a post on my experience entering Canada if you want to learn about what’s it’s like when returning.
For unvaccinated travelers, many are interested in going across the border because they heard that it “allows” them to travel to 130+ countries that don’t require vaccination, by flying out of the US…
Entry rules for the United States
This post is not to repeat the well-known rules, but rather to talk about my own experience. You can read our detailed guide on how to travel in the United States that we’ve been keeping up to date for months; it has literally all the info you’re looking for.
But I’ll still give you the short version.
If you want to know the rules for entering the US by land, it’s just to be fully vaccinated.
That’s it. Very easy in terms of special process: they don’t have one. It’s exactly like before!
(They have the same definition of “fully vaccinated” as in Canada: 2 vaccine doses or 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson. It’s usually easier with the “Canadian” vaccine passport than those provided by your province. Even if those could be accepted if the US agent asks for proof, it’s better to have the right one, and it only takes 2 minutes to download).
By air, the US requires a test, but not by land. That’s “The Science™!” Of course, it would make more sense to have an exemption based on the length of the trip (regardless of the mode of transportation), especially since air quality on planes is factually better than in any building on the ground… but anyway, it’s far from being the first time that something is absurd in all this.
About the vaccination requirement by land, it’s widely known that border patrol agents only randomly check proof of vaccination. I explained it all in my post on how to travel if you’re not vaccinated (and in a few seconds, I’ll tell you if they checked my proof, of course).
So, in short, still no changes to the US entry rules since 2021.
It’s really the basic (and important) thing to understand: every country is obviously a different country… and therefore obviously has different rules. So make sure you don’t mix them up. And remember that there are just 3 sets of rules to check for any trip. The process itself is simple, but the 3 sets of rules are completely separate.
So by land, it’s simple: travel is almost back to normal if you’re vaccinated because the US is 1 of 106 countries that don’t require a test to enter (they’re all listed in our guide to entry rules for all countries, which we updated Saturday).
Entering the United States at Champlain on Saturday
You can read yesterday’s post on entering Canada by land for background on my quick roundtrip to the US to test crossing the border from both directions for you.
In there, you can also read about why you should have a NEXUS card if you want to be a savvy, time-saving traveler.
Anyway, it was about 9 PM when I arrived at Champlain’s border crossing (on Québec’s Autoroute 15 or NY’s Interstate 87) on Saturday night. The lane for NEXUS cardholders was closed, but there was no one else at all at the border anyway.
The whole process at customs took 2 minutes total, slightly longer than usual — but not for the reasons you think.
I gave the friendly border patrol agent my NEXUS card and he asked me where I was going and for how long (I said I was coming just to turn back around to test how it was to enter Canada without a test).
That’s why it took longer than my usual sub-1-minute entry because he obviously (and rightfully) found that weird and I had to explain that I have a travel website.
He asked me to pop the trunk since there was no one waiting behind me anyway (the trunk was empty so it was very quick). I’m pretty sure you’ll avoid that part if you enter for a normal reason haha.
He said thank you… and I will specify that I was very careful not to say whether I was vaccinated to test it all out organically.
But as he was handing me my NEXUS card, he asked me: “Oh and you’re vaccinated, right?” and I said yes. He didn’t ask me for proof.
That does NOT mean they never do, of course. But the many testimonials that said that it’s not verified seem very plausible.
I repeat that all the testimonials indicate that they always ask for verbal confirmation that you’re vaccinated, so getting in without being vaccinated necessarily requires lying to a border patrol agent, as we explained. As the reference in travel, Flytrippers can only continue to recommend always following the rules, as we have recommended since the pandemic started.
Overview of how easy it is to travel by land (in both directions)
Unlike Canada, the US doesn’t require you to fill out any forms. I’d give them credit for not pretending that a form is still useful at this point, but actually, they’ve never required one at all (at least not since my first pandemic visit there in April 2021).
So basically, it’s as quick and easy as before the pandemic.
As I said, it’s pretty much back to normal now if you’re vaccinated. There aren’t many good reasons left not to travel, honestly! There’s a reason why the “revenge travel” phenomenon has (finally) made its way to Canada.
It’s really not complicated.
Going anywhere in the USA test-free
Because I’m flying to the US on Thursday, I’ll have to get tested (maybe for the last time…I’m hoping their test requirement will be lifted for my next flight to the US on April 27; see below)!
But a test isn’t the end of the world, either. I’ve done 25 in the past year. They cost $17 in a few provinces, or max $30 anywhere… so it’s not a big deal at all. This time, I’ll use the virtual self-test that you can do from home for $45 with our FLYTRIP5 promo code to try it out for you.
I’ve updated the post on inexpensive rapid antigen tests in Canada. We’ll be posting a more detailed guide soon to coincide with the upcoming launch of our completely revamped pandemic travel resources page!
But I could have avoided that test easily if I wanted to. To go anywhere in the US test-free, you can just enter by land and fly out of an airport near the border, and that’s it. Your plane tickets could even be cheaper this way!
In short… it’s very easy to avoid all tests if you just choose 1 of the 106 countries that don’t require tests. Simple!
Possible changes coming to US entry rules
To give you a taste of an article I’ll write on the subject — since MANY of you are asking for it — I can briefly mention possible upcoming changes in the US.
I’ve already told you that the Senate has (symbolically) voted to end the mask requirement on planes (which could happen as early as April 18), and the test requirement to enter the country by air could be lifted as well.
It’s far from guaranteed, though, but the CEOs of 10 US airlines have joined together to put pressure on the US government and get them to trust the science and follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations (which are to remove ALL travel restrictions)!
Flytrippers will obviously follow this very closely and let you know.
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Traveling to the United States is pretty much back to normal, at least by land. The rules are pretty easy to understand: you don’t need a test to cross the land border, you just need to have proof you’re fully vaccinated (if they ask for it)! I tried it out for you on Saturday, and all they asked me was to verbally confirm that I was vaccinated. Simple!
What would you like to know about traveling to the United States? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: US border crossing in Champlain, NY (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)
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