New U.S. Canada Pact Will Track Border Crossings

Snowbirds and other frequent travellers to the United States will be subject to tightened border surveillance and more accurate application of visiting rules under the new U.S./Canada Beyond the Border Deal agreed to by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama.

The deal, to be announced during Prime Minister Harper’s visit to Washington on Wednesday, is ultimately designed to ease trade and travel between the two countries at the same time as it enhances border protection from terrorist threats.

The foundation of the deal is a greatly enhanced sharing of information between the two countries facilitated by a new entry-exist system for people crossing the border either way. At the present time the Canadian government doesn’t track who leaves the country; neither does the U.S. That is about to change.

According to experts who have seen the agreement, Canada will gain the ability to track unemployment recipients who file for benefits and leave for the U.S, for months at a time—either for vacations or to seek underground jobs.  Similarly it will be able to track landed immigrants who don’t meet residency requirements to remain in Canada and ultimately drift to the U.S. as undocumented aliens. It has been a matter of some concern to both Canadian and U.S. immigration authorities that some migrants, who are required to stay in Canada for two full years in a five-year period, have not been doing so but have still be claiming Canadian residency rights.

On the other hand, the entry/exist system will also be able to accurately record the specific number of days snowbirds and other travellers actually spend in the U.S. and apply sanctions if those rules are contravened.

Up until now, Canadian border authorities have been able to collect some of that data on air travellers, who are required to complete customs declaration forms, but have not done so with ground travellers. That will change.

It is expected that though Canadian and American record systems will remain separate, the sharing of information will allow complete transparency about who travels where and for how long, but each country will retain its own rules and regulations concerning passport and visa requieements.

More about this deal as the details emerge.  Stay Tuned.

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