CANADIAN BORDER (WSYR/WFFF) — Moving to a new country in the middle of a pandemic was a decision Charlie Marshall had to make for his education, but it came with its challenges. “It’s been strange, but it’s getting back to normal,” said the Canadian.
Marshall’s student visa allowed him in and out of Canada a few times since he’s started studying at Syracuse University. But now, travelers from Canada—and Mexico, along with most countries in Europe—are permitted to enter the U.S. with proof of vaccination for the first time since COVID closed the border almost 20 months ago.
That means Marshall’s family no longer has to jump through hoops to come to cross the border into New York to visit, which has been considered nonessential travel. Between plane rides, COVID tests, and quarantine, it hasn’t been easy for his parents to come and visit.
“It’s a lot easier, especially if you’re just coming to Buffalo or Syracuse something like that,” Marshall said. “Drive over rather than get on a plane for a couple hours and drive around from there.”
For international travelers coming by air, proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test within three days of travel is still required. If traveling by land or ferry, only proof of vaccination for travelers 18 years and older is required, a convenience Marshall’s family is looking forward to taking advantage of.
“They’ll probably come for a basketball game,” Marshall said. “A bunch of my buddies from back home want to come up, too. So it will be nice to have them here and see Syracuse a bit, and be in a different country for the first time in a few years, for them.”
At the port of entry in Highgate Springs, Vermont, cars began entering the country early Monday. While there were no delays, a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer said 12 to 15 cars lined up at midnight, all headed to Florida.
“It feels really good. I’ve been waiting for a long time now,” said Octave Frecheux, a Concordia University student who planned to reunite with his friends for a few weeks in New York City. “It’s been closed for more than a year.”
Montreal citizens Sylvie Poirier and Richard Bourdun got an early start to beat the rush. “We thought there would be a lot of cars at the border, but we were lucky,” said Poirier. “There was nobody. But we are going to see some friends in New Hampshire after two years that we couldn’t go, and then we’re going five months in Florida.”
Eileen Bigelow, area port director for Vermont, said travelers are required to show proof of their vaccination and travel documents, something she recommends people update after several months of no traveling. “We are expecting a higher than normal increase in travelers. We ask that people be patient with the new process that we’re going through so that we can do our job and get folks where they’d like to be,” she said.
To ensure a quick experience at the border, she advises travelers to download the CBP One app or go to CBP.gov for questions about wait times, the vaccine, and required travel documents. “It is a happy day,” Bigelow said. “This is showing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel during this past pandemic that we’ve had that really has affected a lot of people around the world with traveling, going to see loved ones, doing their shopping, and so on.”
The excitement to come and visit the U.S. isn’t just felt by loved ones, but by businesses as well. During a normal year at Destiny USA, 20% of visitors come from Canada, and the mall is ready to welcome those customers back with open arms.
“We’ve been hearing that the Canadians are itching and they’re ready to get back on the bus and come back down, and spend days and money,” said Nikita Jankowski, Director of Marketing at Destiny USA. “We’re saying, ‘Come on! Bring it on!’”
The mall isn’t waiting to dish out the deals. The Embassy Suites by Hilton at Destiny USA is offering 20% off for all Canadian residents who show proof of residency and the I Love NY welcome center is offering 10% off their popular logged items.
“We have a lot of great deals and incentives, not just with the welcome center and the hotel the Embassy Suites by Hilton,” Jankowski said. “We have a lot of tenants throughout the center offering different discounts and deals.”