Preclearance in Canada and the United States

What is Preclearance?

“Preclearance” refers to an arrangement between two countries that allows customs and immigration officials from the country of destination to be located in the country of origin in order to clear or deny the admission of travellers or goods to the destination country.

History of Preclearance in Canada

The United States (U.S.) has been conducting air preclearance (i.e. at airports) in Canada since 1952 under various arrangements. From 2002 until August 2019, the legal basis for these operations was provided by a treaty called the Air Transport Preclearance Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States (Air agreement) and the Preclearance Act of 1999. This agreement provided for air preclearance of travellers but it did not include other modes of transport or cargo operations.

In March 2015, Canada and the United States signed a new treaty entitled the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport Preclearance between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States (LRMA), which was a commitment of the 2011 Beyond the Border Action Plan.

The LRMA provides for preclearance operations to be conducted in all modes of transport (i.e. land, rail and marine as well as air) as well as for cargo operations. Like the previous Air agreement, the LRMA permits either country to establish preclearance operations in the territory of the other country (i.e. Canada in the U.S. or the U.S. in Canada).

Canada’s treaty obligations under the Air agreement were implemented in Canadian law through the Preclearance Act of 1999. Similarly, Canada’s treaty obligations under the LRMA have been implemented in Canada through the modernized Preclearance Act, 2016.

The LRMA and Preclearance Act, 2016 entered into force in August 2019.

To access the LRMA, please visit https://www.treaty-accord.gc.ca/text-texte.aspx?id=105453.

To access the Preclearance Act, 2016, please visit https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/P-19.32/page-1.html.

Preclearance Locations in Canada

The U.S. is currently conducting preclearance operations at the following airports in Canada:

What are the Benefits of Preclearance?

Passengers and goods which are “pre-cleared” experience faster and more reliable service moving through border points and these operations provide a higher level of security by identifying potential threats at the earliest point in the process. By facilitating the fast and secure movement of people and goods across the border, preclearance supports trade and economic prosperity.

Feedback

Under section 26.1 of the Preclearance Act, 2016, travellers may provide feedback to Canadian senior officials of the Preclearance Consultative Group of a situation that has arisen relating to: strip searches, monitored bowel movements, x-ray/cavity searches; incidents which occurred in or upon withdrawal from preclearance areas; or officer powers when an offence is suspected.



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