EL PASO, Texas -- The U.S. easing restrictions on travel from Mexico was implemented Monday, allowing tourists to make long-delayed trips and family members to reconnect with loved ones after more than a year and a half apart because of the pandemic.
Covid-19 has upended lives in many ways including through restrictions on travel. That has been felt acutely by those living near the border, where traveling back and forth was a way of life.
The new rules now in effect allow nonessential travel across America's border for vaccinated visitors and El Paso merchants were hoping the reopening will bring a flood of visitors to the businesses that rely on them.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection anticipated an increase in travel volumes and wait times at border crossings and was encouraging travelers to have their identification and vaccination documents ready. The agency also encouraged travelers to use its CBP One app.
While there were long lines to enter El Paso at points on Monday, wait times were running between a half-hour and 45 minutes much of the time.
Staffing levels will be at pre-Covid levels, according to CBP, but the agency will be balancing multiple priorities.
"Trade and travel facilitation remain a priority," a Department of Homeland Security Q&A about the new policy says. "However, we cannot compromise national security which is our primary mission."
Digital and paper documentation is acceptable for proof of vaccination, and vaccine cards do not need to be in English.
Travelers should be prepared to attest to their vaccination status and reason for travel. They should also be prepared to show proof of being fully vaccinated, if requested by a CBP officer.
Children under 18 traveling with vaccinated adults are exempt from the vaccination requirement.
Covid tests are not required at land crossings.