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As the world climbs out of the COVID crisis, those involved in international manufacturing are concerned about the state of border crossings and current restrictions. When will the borders open back up? Just what are the US-Mexico border restrictions still in effect? What are the current rules, and when will they be lifted or changed?

Below are the current US-Mexico border restrictions and how the governments of Mexico and the United States are currently handling border crossings.

The Initial Lockdown Crisis

On March 21, 2020, the United States and Mexico jointly closed their shared border in an effort to curb the risk of Covid-19 transmission. The US Department of Homeland Security enacted several policies such as no longer housing detained illegal immigrants in US detention facilities and restricting non-essential border crossings.

A series of emergency restrictions went into a place that have since been re-instated to a large extent, month after month, well over a year after their first use. The move has not been without controversy, and some are arguing for the lifting of these restrictions, citing the economic hardship they cause for the border regions.

Current US-Mexico Border Restrictions

The cross-border restrictions have recently been reinstated through at least May 21, 2021. Each month, the border lockdown is reinstated, and it likely to continue past May 21. Air travel is not currently limited, but travelers are required to obtain a negative COVID test to fly into the US. Mexico does not have such a restriction for air travelers.

US-Mexico Border Restrictions

US manufacturers taking advantage of Mexico’s maquiladora manufacturing-for-export program are likely to be concerned about how they may enter Mexico or return to the US under these emergency restrictions – whether for trucking, management visits, or living abroad. While travelling by air, freight rail, or open sea is virtually unrestricted at this time, the following are the current US-Mexico border restrictions for land crossings.

Essential Travel Only

The land border is effectively closed to all travel deemed “non-essential.” Essential travel expressly excludes the following types:

  • Sightseeing
  • Pleasure-boat travel
  • Recreation
  • Gambling
  • Cultural events
  • Shopping/purchasing trips for supplies readily available in their country
  • Visiting friends and family unless a primary caretaker
  • Unnecessary mail pickup and drop-off
  • Mexican nationals with US passports not allowed entry

Essential travel encompasses the following:

  • Lawful citizens are allowed back into their home country
  • Medical trips
  • Attending educational institutions
  • Travel for work across the border
  • Emergency response and public health purposes
  • Official government travel or diplomatic missions
  • Military-related travel
  • Lawful cross-border trade; trucking cargo and manufactured goods between Mexico and the US is still permitted.

The current restrictions note that most business travel and shipments are permitted. But if in doubt, travelers should consult the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requirements for specifics.

Travelling to Mexico

The above restrictions are primarily those issued by the US Department of Homeland Security. The Mexican Government has taken a more permissive approach in their restrictions. Passengers and vehicles are freely entering Mexico from the US. Tourist permits and temporary vehicle import permits are routinely being issued as normal.

However, anecdotal information indicates a situation in flux. Each border crossing and port may handle different situations differently. US citizens who have legal residency in Mexico are freely able to gain admission via their temporary residence card or visa sticker. But all others should verify before travelling to Mexico.

 When Will the Border Re-Open?

US-Mexico border restrictions seem to be extended each month, and it’s difficult to know when they will end. The current order expires on May 21, but is expected to re renewed into June.

Business is booming in Mexico as the country approaches a full recovery. The economic outlook is good, and as cases in both countries fall, hopes are that business as usual will resume very soon.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently expressed his intention to discuss re-opening the US-Mexico border in his upcoming virtual meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris. As it currently stands, business travel remains unhindered.

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