Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Dec 16, 2021

Foreign workers crossing U.S. borders will have to prove vaccination


According to the Department of Homeland Security, sometime in January 2022, foreign workers seeking to enter the U.S. through ports of entry on land or at ferry terminals will have to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (coronavirus). Currently, workers engaged in essential travel, such as truck drivers transporting commercial goods, are exempt from any requirement to show proof of vaccination at the border. That will change in January. The Homeland Security web page, Frequently Asked Questions: Guidance for Travelers to Enter the U.S. (updated 11/23/21), says, “Starting in January 2022, … all inbound non-U.S. persons crossing U.S. land POEs or ferry terminals – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination.” The Homeland Security Fact Sheet: Guidance for Travelers to Enter the U.S. at Land Ports of Entry and Ferry Terminals (updated 11/23/21) contains the same information. A “non-U.S. person” is someone who isn’t a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.

Regarding Canadian rules on U.S. workers crossing into Canada, a Canadian government press release (11/19/21) says, “as of January 15, 2022, certain groups of travellers, who are currently exempt from entry requirements, will only be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved for entry into Canada. These groups include… essential service providers, including truck drivers. After January 15, 2022, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated foreign nationals will only be allowed to enter Canada if they meet the criteria for limited exceptions, which apply to certain groups such as agricultural and food processing workers, marine crew members, those entering on compassionate grounds, new permanent residents, resettling refugees and some children under the age of 18. Exempt unvaccinated travellers will continue to be subject to testing, quarantine, and other entry requirements. Non-exempt unvaccinated or partially vaccinated foreign nationals will be prohibited entry into Canada.”

Tips: On the U.S. side, we don’t yet know the exact effective date of Homeland Security’s new vaccination requirement or whether providing a negative test result might be an acceptable alternative. We recommend checking the agency’s guidance regularly as the deadline nears. Canada’s guidance is a little clearer, although we’re unable to advise on Canadian law.

If you have any workers crossing the U.S.-Canadian border for business travel, you should verify their vaccination status so you know whether they could be stopped at the border in January 2022. If they’re unvaccinated, you’ll need to decide what to do. Possible actions might include requiring vaccination (subject to sincerely held religious beliefs or documented medical reasons), reassigning the worker to domestic travel, or placing the worker on a leave of absence. Your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney can help you explore your options.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.