WELLESLEY ISLAND, N.Y. (WWTI) — For the first time in 20 months, the Northern Border between the U.S. and Canada border reopened to nonessential travelers on November 8. This hotly anticipated event means noncitizens can cross into the country through land ports of entry and ferry terminals for recreation, family visits, or to return to properties.

To cross the border, non-citizen travelers must attest to being fully COVID vaccinated, along with providing proper documents. Physical proof of COVID-19 vaccinations will not be required for non-essential and essential travelers until January.

At the Alexandria Bay Land Port of Entry, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Chief Kurt Tennant, vehicles began lining up once the clock struck twelve. Some even had preliminary celebrations on the Canadian side of the border.

“Our traffic started at midnight last night. We were warned that there was people—RVs lining up four hours before midnight having a tailgate party on the Canadian side,” Tennant said. “When I came in at four o’clock in the morning, the lineup was all the way back to the 401. And it’s been like this all day long.”

Chief Tennant said that RV traffic was a large issue at the border on Monday as Canadian “snowbirds” travel in large volumes to destinations in Florida and Texas. “Normally, we start seeing people from Canada come down to go to Florida—the snowbird traffic starts in about the beginning of October,” he said. “People that normally would have already been down there are all coming here on the same day. So, we’re busy. And we’re going to be busy for a while.”

Before the border reopened, crews on Wellesley Island were preparing for high travel volumes. It’s all hands on deck. “We’ve tried to bring as many people in today as we can so that we’d be staffed up for this,” Tenant said. “The construction crews were excellent last week. They repaved an area above the primary lanes. It’s a ramp going up to where the new port’s going to be.” He added: “That enabled us to push more traffic down the road.”

The local port of entry also remains under construction, which required additional preparations as RV traffic had to be redirected, with only four lanes open to car traffic. “There’s not that much room for people to travel into the United States at this port right now,” Tenant said.

Ahead of the holiday season, Chief Tennant offered advice for travelers at ports of entry across the North Country: “Daytime hours on Fridays and Saturdays tend to be the busiest days for passenger cars to cross. So, just keep in mind—try and be patient with us. We haven’t had this kind of traffic in 20 months, and we’re having to learn how to ride the bicycle again,” he said. “Have your documents ready. Nothing’s really changed for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.”

Higher travel volumes are expected for at least the next several weeks. Additional guidance for non-citizen travelers and border wait times can be found on the CBP website.