Fully vaccinated Canadians can once again pay long-awaited visits to loved ones, vacation properties and tourist destinations in the United States as southbound travel restrictions finally began to ease along the world's longest unmilitarized land border.
Shortly after midnight on November 8, Customs and Border Protection agents began letting fully vaccinated vacationers, visitors and day-trippers drive into the U.S. for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
"Today marks the day that loved ones who have been separated for the past 19 months will finally be reunited. That is very, very significant," said Rep. Brian Higgins, a New York congressman who has been urging the White House for months to end the restrictions.
In a statement, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acknowledged the new rules and warned visitors it might take a while to get through.
"Long lines are expected in the initial days following pent-up demand, and CBP will adjust resources as needed," the agency said.
Many Canadian travellers heading into the United States at major land border crossings experienced wait times of up to three hours in some areas.
But by 9 a.m. ET, passenger traffic delays at the busiest Canada-U.S. crossings were mostly only a few minutes, although the wait at the Peace Bridge between Buffalo and Niagara Falls reached more than two hours shortly after the new rules took effect.
There are 26 primary inspection points across the border with more than 100 ports of entry according to the the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Canadians are being asked to "familiarize themselves with the new guidelines, and have appropriate documentation ready during a border inspection" to reduce wait times by both the DHS and CBSA.
"It is a monumental day for travellers, for the communities and businesses that rely on international visitation, and for the U.S. economy overall," the U.S. Travel Association president Roger Dow said in a statement.
-- With files from the Associated Press