The US Extends Restrictions on Non-Essential Travel Across its Borders with Mexico and Canada

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By: Mishita Jethi


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that restrictions will be extended for all non-essential land and ferry travel across United States borders with Mexico and Canada through August 20, 2020, based on agreements between the countries. While tourism and recreational travel is not permitted, essential travel for work, education, medical, and certain supply chains are still allowed. This restriction does not impact air travel.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will also stop detaining illegal immigrants who enter the US from Canada or Mexico. Instead, they will return these foreign nationals to the country that they came from, or if that is not possible, to their country of their origin.

These non-essential travel restrictions began on March 21, 2020 to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Restrictions have been renewed multiple times, and most recently were set to expire on July 21. The policy may be renewed again in August depending on the status of the COVID-19 emergency.

What Types of Travel are Permitted?

Non-essential travel is not currently permitted. It includes anything that is recreational or tourist in nature, such as sightseeing, gambling, and attending events.

Essential land and ferry travel are still permitted across US borders with Canada and Mexico, including for the following reasons:

  • US citizens and green card holders returning to the United States
  • Lawful trade (such as by cargo truck)
  • US-based work
  • Medical travel (to receive medical treatment in the US, for example)
  • Education
  • Assisting in emergency response or public health efforts in the US
  • US military and their immediate family members returning to the US
  • Supply chains that provide food, fuel, and life-saving medicines among the three countries
  • Additional travel, at the discretion of CBP

Trade and business travelers may be subject to additional scrutiny at the border.

What this Means for Employers

While essential business and work-related travel is permitted to continue as normal, foreign nationals should be prepared to answer more detailed questions from CBP officers about their work and business dealings when crossing the border into the US from Mexico or Canada.


The Chugh, LLP team will closely monitor new developments related to the US border restrictions with Canada and Mexico. We will provide updates as they become available. For help minimizing the impact of COVID-19 immigration restrictions on your business operations, contact your trusted Chugh, LLP attorney.


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