HOULTON, Maine — Cars lined up along the northern terminus of I-95 at Houlton’s port of entry into Canada Monday, the first day in more than 16 months that most Americans could cross the border since the pandemic struck.
The U.S. and Canada shuttered their borders to all but essential travel during the early days of COVID-19. Beginning today, Americans who are fully vaccinated and have taken a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to entry may now once again travel across the world’s longest land border.
Products like whiskey and cosmetics were popular at the duty-free shop on Houlton’s side of the border crossing.
Nichole Crandall, a store manager for Duty Free Americas, watched customers come in and out of the shop.
“We normally open at 8, but we had to open early this morning because there were already customers here,” she said. “I’ve had more people here today already than I had all of last week.”
In order to cross, U.S. citizens will need to download the ArriveCAN app to fill out information regarding their vaccination status and when they intend to arrive at the border. In addition to taking a negative COVID-19 test before entering, travelers are also subject to another self-administered test at the border, which can lead to longer wait times when entering.
As of 1 p.m., the Canadian Border Services agency listed a 30-minute wait time at the entry connecting Houlton to Woodstock, New Brunswick. The crossing between Calais and St. Stephen, New Brunswick, was listed as having a two-hour wait time.
In Houlton, the longest lines were reportedly in the morning. Most travelers appeared to come from out of state. At the port of entry, cars sported license plates ranging from Massachusetts to South Carolina. Crandall said most of the customers she’s seen at the duty-free store also come from out of state.
“It’s mostly been Massachusetts and New York,” she said. “I’ve only had one in-state customer so far.”
Lucy Kendall, who hails from New Hampshire, is one such out-of-state resident who arrived at the border looking to cross on the first day of eligibility.
“My parents are originally from Newfoundland, and my father owns a property out there,” she said. “I’ve been waiting to go visit there for a year and a half.”
For now, only U.S. citizens are eligible to enter Canada. Unvaccinated Americans may also enter into the country, but must quarantine for 14 days. Citizens of other countries will be able to enter Canada beginning in September.