On June 17, 2016, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness introduced
Bill C-23 into the House of Commons, entitled An act expanding preclearance of persons and goods into the United States.
Primarily designed as a means of easing border congestion for both tourism and commerce, the Preclearance Act will allow expansion of the preclearance facilities now operational at eight international airports in Canada to rail, marine, and land crossings on both sides of the border.
That means the stationing of U.S. border agents at more crossing areas in Canada and the establishment of Canadian border agents in the U.S., all working from similar sets of rules and, in effect, sharing common border-crossing data.
Sharing of border-crossing data is not new—in fact, it has been slowly evolving at designated border crossing points for several years. We have been reporting on it since its inception. To be sure, the idea of avoiding long waiting lines to clear customs on the U.S. side of the border will offend no one.
But the expansion of this data-sharing into actual physical preclearance services on both sides of the border, and its legislative introduction into Canada’s House of Commons, adds a totally new dimension. It also means (1) a new layer of enforcement of B2 visa rules (a total of no more than six months of visiting time in the U.S. over 12 months), (2) easier detection of tax liability under the IRS Substantial Presence Test, and (3) more precise out-of-country/provincial data for perusal by CRA and provincial health insurance bureaucrats.
Both countries in this set piece have always had difficulty tracking departures. Entrances are easy.
But, as the U.S. admits, although it knows when visa holders and others enter for business or leisure travel, it has had no system of recording when they leave.
Consequently, the U.S. estimates that of the 11 or 12 million undocumented aliens now in the country, a large proportion of these are visa overstays, i.e., people who entered on a legitimate visa and simply stayed undetected.
Many Canadians too, among them snowbirds, admit they would like to stay in the U.S. Sunbelt for over six months a year, and some frankly admit they have—some partly because of confusion about the B2 visa rules, and others just because they could.
It’s true the rules (or interpretations of them) are somewhat confusing—some specify 182 days per year, others 180 days, still others six months (which varies according to which months you choose). And then there has been the confusion about calendar year vs. a 12-month year. Check out the TIF article How Long Can I Legally Stay in the U.S. for more information on this subject.
You need to pay attention to the passage of Bill C-23 (the Preclearance Act, 2016) as it meanders through the legislative process.
Regardless of any amendments made to the legislation, the bottom line is quite clear: the days of casually passing into New York, Michigan, Montana, or Washington with a mere wave from the border agent are over. You need to have your documentation in order and available, you need to know the rules and stick to them, and you need to stay tuned.
To purchase travel insurance for your upcoming trip, visit Ingle International.