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Canada/U.S. Customs Preclearance Update

Canadians travelling to the United States will soon be able to get preclearance from U.S. customs agents before they cross the border, easing lines at busy border crossings.

The new agreement, recently announced by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at a press conference in Washington, will provide a legal framework allowing new preclearance options for land, rail, marine, and air travelers.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the agreement will:

  • Allow for the consideration of requests for new preclearance locations across all modes.
  • Enable exploration of co-location at small and remote ports, if desired.
  • Provide updates to the Air Preclearance Agreement to better reflect the post 9/11 operating environment, including policies and tools utilized at domestic ports of entry.
  • Enable Canada to request that the United States regularize existing U.S. immigration pre-inspection sites—for example at cruise, rail, and ferry terminals in British Columbia.
  • Enhance authorities for preclearance officers including the ability to carry firearms, defensive tools, and restraint devices to the same extent that Host Party officers are permitted to carry in the relevant operating environments.
  • Address officer privileges and immunities through a shared jurisdictional framework in which the sending country may generally exercise primary criminal jurisdiction for acts committed by its officers in the performance of official duties in the Host country.
  • Retain the civil and administrative prosecutorial jurisdictions for preclearance officers provided for in the current Air Preclearance Agreement.

A preclearance arrangement already exists for air travel at eight Canadian airports—Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg—allowing pre-cleared travellers to forgo customs lines in U.S. airports upon arrival.

Both governments must pass legislation to ratify the agreement.


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