An arriving passenger at Newark [N.J.] Liberty International Airport uses a Global Entry kiosk to enter the U.S. (photo by Josh Denmark
On Monday, November 8, the U.S. border is finally going to re-open to international travelers for the first time in almost two years. It’s going to be a momentous day (week and month) for many longing to be reunited with their families, friends and colleagues.
If you remember, back in early 2020, then-President Trump closed the U.S. borders to most of Europe, Brazil, China, India, Iran, South Africa and when the Biden administration took over, they continued the ban. Well, after the president’s long proclamation (filled with legal language that you can read here), it’s all coming to an end. Sort of.
There are a lot of new restrictions but the point of this tip is that you’re really going to need to pack your patience because the border waits are expected to be extremely long. As Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines said this week: “It’s going to be a bit sloppy at first. I can assure you, there will be lines, unfortunately, but we’ll get it sorted out.”
If that’s not enough, Sherry Stein, head of technology for the Americas at SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques), a multinational information technology company providing services to the vast majority of the world’s airlines and airports, told Forbes that she too is “expecting a very messy re-opening on Monday and the near future.” The most worrying part came when she cited a prediction from IATA (International Air Transport Association) that: “The expectation is that we could see wait times of up to eight hours.”
Eight hours! Say what?! I truly hope it won’t be that long because that’s no way to welcome anyone to America especially visitors. I’m hoping this won’t be the case in most airports but it all depends on what time you land, how many planes (people) are in front of you and how many agents are working. If you land during peak times at a busy gateway, then buckle up. I know seven-hour waits did happen at London’s Heathrow Airport.
However, if you have Global Entry (it’s too late to get it now if you’re traveling in the next couple of months) it shouldn’t be that long. If the lines are crazy long, I recommend downloading the Mobile Passport App as it should speed things up.
I do think land borders are going to be worse because, unlike the airlines, they can’t predict how many travelers are planning to cross each day, so it’s more difficult for them to have the right amount of staffing. A bigger reason is because the government has passed on the verification process to the airlines to ease airport queues. Travelers can’t board a plane without showing proof that they’re fully vaccinated (or recently recovered from COVID) and have a negative COVID test taken within the past three days.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned this week that: “Travelers should plan for longer than normal wait times and long lines at U.S. land border crossings when planning their trip and are reminded to exercise patience.” They also state: “Starting November 8, when arriving at a U.S. land POE or ferry terminal, non-citizen travelers should be prepared to:
-present proof of COVID-19 vaccination as outlined on the CDC website; and,
-verbally attest to their non-essential travel and COVID-19 vaccination status
Individuals engaged in essential travel will not be required to be vaccinated at this time. Starting in January 2022, however, all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land POEs or ferry terminals – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination.”
Unfortunately, the land borders will be much slower to cross as the agents have to verify everything the airlines need to so be prepared for even longer queues or travel off-peak.
According to USA Today: Aaron Bowker, director of Office of Field Operations Communications for the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) advised “people catching international flights to the U.S. in the near future is to be prepared and don’t expect brief pandemic wait times such as an average of 20 minutes at New York’s JFK airport.”
If you’re traveling to the USA, no matter if you’re a U.S. citizen, fully vaccinated or not, you need to read the CDC guidelines.
Listen, I get it. No one wants to read boring material while away or getting ready to travel but knowledge really is power. Finding out exactly what you need in advance can save you huge headaches, time and money.
Long immigration lines after a long flight are terrible. I used to get so frustrated if I had to wait 45 minutes because it felt like three hours and during COVID, it must feel like an eternity. If I didn’t have Global Entry, I would try and fly during off-peak times and days, just to avoid long lines.
GOOD TO KNOW: Here’s how to get Global Entry for free