New measures will affect some Canadian immigration procedures
WASHINGTON, DC – At a news conference on Monday, March 16, 2015, Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson signed a new customs pre-clearance agreement between Canada and the United States. Years in the making, the agreement is expected to facilitate travel between the two countries via land, sea, and air.
A pre-clearance system allows immigration officers from the country being visited to inspect goods or travellers in their country of origin. In other words, Canadian immigration agents will be able to operate in the United States, enabling them to screen travelers at locations away from the border. This system will help minimize traffic at commonly congested border crossings. Eight airports already employ a similar procedure, allowing travelers to clear U.S. customs in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto, and thus bypass the line-ups at American airports when they land in the States.
In Minister Blaney’s words, the “historic new agreement” is based on these pre-clearance operations, which have been successfully implemented. Under this system, Canadian airports already pre-clear approximately 11 million travelers to the States annually, according to official records. The new agreement is expected to bring benefits that extend beyond easier travel. The need for additional customs agents and new pre-clearance facilities will generate increased employment on both sides of the border.
“[The new agreement] will enhance security at our border and create jobs and growth in Canada by improving the flow of legitimate goods and people between our two countries,” Blaney said on the occasion of the signing. He added that close to 400,000 people and $2 billion in goods and services cross the Canadian–American border each day.
The budget for the new customs infrastructure remains to be announced, as do the methods of financing it, and the timeframe in which the agreement will be implemented. The plan depends on new legislation in both countries, which will take longer to be ratified in the US Congress than it will in Canadian Parliament. Both Canada and the United States have already missed an earlier deadline in 2012 to establish pre-clearance for travel via land and sea. The two governments originally announced their intention to expand pre-clearance land and sea travel with the previous 2011 Beyond the Border agreement.
Canada and the United States have voiced their intention to facilitate faster border crossings for travelers, while continuing to screen carefully for offenders. Secretary Johnson has stressed that the 9/11 attacks affected the handling of border security.
Records show that land travel to the United States has not bounced back from the decrease that it experienced in 2001. The United States Bureau on Travel Statistics reports that, since 2000, 34% fewer road travellers have crossed the northern border into the States, with the largest decreases in 2001 and 2003.
American customs officers operating in Canada will be armed but will not have the authority to make arrests. Travelers who need to be arrested will be detained until the arrival of a Canadian immigration officer.
To speak with a Canadian immigration lawyer, contact First Immigration Law Firm Toll-free @ 1-855-360-4333.