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 LRMA have been implemented in Canada through the Preclearance Act, 2016.
The LRMA and Preclearance Act, 2016 entered into force in August 2019.
Preclearance areas are designated locations where preclearance officers may exercise their authorities. They are clearly demarcated at all facilities with U.S. preclearance operations. Preclearance signage is posted when entering a preclearance area to notify travellers of their obligations, their right to withdraw, and that biometric information may be collected.
Preclearance Locations in Canada
The U.S. is currently conducting preclearance operations at the following airports and marine facilities in Canada:
- Calgary International Airport
- Edmonton International Airport
- Stanfield International Airport (Halifax)
- Trudeau International Airport (Montréal)
- Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (Ottawa)
- Pearson International Airport (Toronto)
- Vancouver International Airport
- Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport
- Alaska Marine Highway System Ferry Terminal (Prince Rupert, British Columbia)
What are the Benefits of Preclearance?
Travellers 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.
For information on establishing preclearance please contact Public Safety Canada at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Preclearance News Releases
First U.S. marine preclearance location in Canada opens in Prince Rupert, BC
June 20, 2022
New Canada–U.S. Preclearance Agreement comes into force, opening door to enhanced travel and trade
August 15, 2019
Canada is one step closer to expanding preclearance operations with the U.S.
December 13, 2017
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