On March 21, 2020, the United States, Canada, and Mexico agreed to close their land borders to non-essential travel for 30 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That measure has been extended each month since then—and now it will continue through Oct. 21 per an announcement by the Department of Homeland Security.
The restricted non-essential travel primarily translates to tourism, while essential business travel, including cross-border trade, can continue as normal. Americans who are already in Canada and Mexico are also able to return home at any time.
Interestingly, however, there is no ban on air travel between the United States and Mexico: Americans are welcome to visit Mexico as tourists if they fly into the country. Upon arrival, there’s no mandatory quarantine period (though a 14-day quarantine is advised), nor do travelers need proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test. New coronavirus cases in Mexico are trending downward after a spike in August, though several thousand new cases are still being reported daily.
That’s not the case for Canada, which remains closed to most foreign nationals traveling for non-essential reasons, save for those who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents. For the latter group, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory.
One exception to Canada’s policies, however, is for Americans transiting through Canada between Alaska and the contiguous 48 states. In that instance, Americans need to hang an indicator tag in their car, follow the most direct route through Canada, and cross the border at designated sites only. Travelers are not to take detours to any tourist sites: one man who defied the rules this summer now faces a $569,000 fine (CAD$750,000) and a six-month prison sentence.