The border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in Houlton. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — Canadians will be able to travel across the U.S. land border again starting on Nov. 8.

The opening of the border marks the end of more than 20 months the U.S. has prevented its land ports of entry from welcoming visitors from Canada and Mexico to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada had opened its land borders to vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas had announced earlier in the week that the land border restrictions would be lifted in November, but had not given an exact date. Friday’s announcement solidifies the date. Travelers entering the U.S. will be required to have proof of vaccination, but will not need to undergo additional testing.

The news brought praise from a bipartisan group of prominent U.S. politicians, including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who had long advocated for the opening of the border. The rest of Maine’s congressional delegation, all of whom caucus with Democrats, had also supported easing the border restrictions.

““It simply made no sense to allow vaccinated air travelers to come to the U.S. but not allow vaccinated Canadians to drive across the northern border,” Collins said. “This long-overdue announcement will finally help to reunite tight-knit border communities and provide a boost to Maine small businesses that have suffered significant revenue losses without Canadian customers.”

The lifting of the ban is likely to be warmly received by residents of Maine’s border communities, some of whom struggled without the influx of Canadian tourists, leading to business relief programs for border towns.

With two-way traffic between the two borders set to be re-established, the next point of contention might be from Canada’s rigorous testing requirements Americans have to undergo before entering, even if they are fully vaccinated.

In Maine, many border towns were without proper facilities for Canada-approved polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests, although the Maine Department of Health and Human services announced an expansion of the tests at Walgreens locations.  

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-New York, another longtime advocate of lifting border restrictions, told  CBC News this week that testing for vaccinated Americans was “redundant” and urged the country to drop the requirements.