You’d better start keeping track of all of your cross-border trips, be they for a day, a month, or more. And learn the rules. There’s going to be little room for error. You will now have two Big Brothers watching.
For over a year, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (a unit within the sprawling Department of Homeland Security) have been testing a new data-sharing Entry/Exit system designed to track not only when you arrive for a visit to the US (or Canada, if you are American), but when you leave – date, time, and crossing point. Up until now, neither country has had a formal “exit-control” mechanism, so it has not been easy to track all overstays.
Under the new system, when Canadians return home by road or air, they will present their passports to a CBSA officer and be “checked in.” But that data will then be shared with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and recorded as an “exit” (from the US) for that particular traveller. Thus, an entry into one country will be considered an exit from the other.
The first phase of the system was activated from September 2012 through to January 2013 at four of the busiest crossing points between Canada and the US:
- Pacific Highway, Surrey, BC
- Douglas (Peace Arch), Surrey, BC
- Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
- Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, Ontario
So far, the two agencies have high praise for the Entry/Exit program. They claim they have been able to reconcile or match their entry and exit records to approximately 95 per cent accuracy. To this point, they have only recorded the crossing records of third-country nationals and permanent residents (not Canadian or American citizens). But that is likely to change.
The second test phase began on June 30, 2013, again tracking only third-party nationals and permanent residents (not citizens of either country).
As CBSA says in a program fact sheet, “by establishing a coordinated entry/exit system, both countries will be able to identify persons who potentially overstay their visa, better monitor the departure of persons subject to removal orders, and verify that residency requirements are being met by applicants for continued eligibility in immigration programs.”
An independent review of the financial viability of the project and existing privacy concerns has been activated by Canada. If it gives the project a green light, the scope of tracking will be expanded in June 2014 to include all travellers. This means Canadian and US citizens, as well as third-country nationals and permanent residents.
The data shared will not only record the time and date of crossing, but names, nationality, gender, document type (passport, Nexus, or other), document number and country of issuance, work location, point of entry, date, and time of entry. The data will be transmitted in real time by fibre optic cable between Canadian and US agencies.
Stay with us. We will report on the Entry/Exit program as it is implemented.