The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

CBSA pilot project not the answer to border backups

August 21 2017 21 August 2017


Once around the flagpole, then home?

Not so fast.

Flagpoling is a term used by foreign nationals who exit the country only to immediately re-enter in order to satisfy the requirements of a work visa or to confirm landing. Because of slow processing times and inefficient processes online and at immigration offices in Canada, it is more efficient for many people to go to a point of entry and do the quick turnaround than to deal with an inland immigration centre.

At some busy ports of entry in southern Ontario, the government is trying to reduce wait times during the peak weekend period.

A pilot project introduced by Canada Border Services Agency in June is not, however, the appropriate response, says the CBA’s Immigration Law Section.

Under the pilot project, foreign nationals who appear at border crossings for confirmation of permanent resident, work permit and study permit applications are only being processed during non-peak times on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Anyone who shows up from Friday to Monday is allowed to proceed into Canada under their current immigration status. They then have to apply online, by mail or in person at an inland Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada office, or return to a border point during the week.

“This refusal to process a request at the port of entry is not just a negative client experience,” the Section says in its letter to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, “it is a matter of public interest that is unauthorized under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which can have a significant detrimental impact on an applicant.”

Furthermore, channelling foreign nationals to non-peak times is not having the desired effect, the Section says, noting it has heard reports of people showing up at the designated time and not being processed, and of officers outside the Southern Ontario region refusing to process applications.

“When an officer decides to defer an examination at a POE to a weekday using IRPA section 23, the foreign national is readmitted to Canada with no status until the examination can be resumed,” the letter says. “This can have significant and immediate consequences on an applicant’s ability to work or study in Canada, and on their health insurance coverage. Applicants often flagpole on weekends for legitimate reasons, such as to avoid taking time off work or taking their children out of school.”

The Section asks that the pilot project be halted immediately, but also proposes a number of alternatives to achieve the desired result, including guaranteeing landing interviews within a week of permanent visas being issued; allowing foreign nationals to leave and re-enter Canada without jeopardizing their implied status; and opening inland offices to deal with in-person applications on an urgent basis.

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