El Paso CBP officials dispel rumors, provide guidelines on who can cross the border

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials are reminding the public only fully vaccinated foreign nationals with valid entry documents will be permitted to cross into the U.S. from Mexico for non-essential reasons in response to rumors circulating on social media.

“We are hearing about rumors circulating on social media and elsewhere that this change applies to anyone. I can assure you it does not,” said Hector Mancha, U.S. Customs and Border Protection El Paso director of field operations. “It is vitally important that members of the public only consult official government sources the most accurate and reliable information related to the November 8 changes.”

When the border opens to fully vaccinated foreign nationals traveling for non-essential reasons on November 8, travelers will be required to attest their vaccination status and to present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer upon request. This change does not apply to anyone else, according to CBP officials.

CBP is also again asking for preparedness and patience as travelers are able to take advantage of the first stage of re-opening following pandemic travel restrictions. 

Given the growing volume of travel, border crossers should take into account longer than normal wait times and long lines at our land border in the days ahead. CBP is asking that travelers exercise patience as the agency embarks on further reopening cross-border travel.

Travelers can monitor border wait times online. Information is updated hourly to include wait times for SENTRI, Ready, and non-Ready lanes. The number of open lanes is also updated hourly.

For the ports of entry along the U.S-Mexico border, CBP officials are suggesting the following steps that travelers can take to try and help speed processing for entry into the U.S.:

  • If you are a visa holder traveling for non-essential reasons, you can verbally attest or declare to the officer that you have been vaccinated, without waiting for the officer to ask the question.  Have your proof of vaccination ready, in case the officer asks to see it.  (Not every individual will be asked to show their proof at every crossing, but they are required to have their proof of vaccination with them in case they are asked to provide it to the CBP officer as a part of their inspection for entry into the U.S.)
  • If you are traveling for non-essential reasons, travel at off-peak times. At local ports of entry, our peak times with the highest traffic volumes are on Sundays and weekday mornings. To help alleviate traffic, CBP is recommending that those who can decide when to cross, choose off-peak hours for their travel times.
  • For travelers in need of an I-94 permit or “permiso”, they can use the CBP One mobile app to apply and pay in advance (up to seven days before) of crossing. Travelers can use the app on their phone to complete the application, receive conditional approval, and pay the fee for the permit.  They can then complete the final step with the officer in the primary booth during their inspection for entry to the U.S. Using the app significantly improves the individual traveler’s crossing experience, as they do not need to go to secondary inspection for completion and can instead continue on their way. Additionally, using the app helps save time for everyone at the border crossing. For travelers who do not apply electronically, they should expect long wait times for processing.
  • Use the correct lane. Traffic at local ports of entry is segmented into three different lanes. The SENTRI lanes are only for those traveling in a vehicle with all of the occupants registered in the low-risk Trusted Traveler program; the vehicle itself must also be registered with SENTRI.  The ready lanes are only for those who have a document equipped to use the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology available to help speed processing into the U.S. For U.S. citizens, that’s a passport card, rather than the blue passport book. It also includes Legal Permanent Resident Cards and the Border Crossing Cards held by local B1/B2 visa holders. All other traveleres must have their correct documentation ready to show that they have the legal status to enter the U.S. and use the general traffic lanes. 

By January, 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. 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.

Information about what is acceptable as proof of vaccination, including which vaccines are permissible, is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. To be considered fully vaccinated, 14 days must have passed since your final shot for your vaccine. 

For more information about changes regarding travel restrictions, you can visit the DHS press release and Fact Sheet.

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