On August 15, 2019, Public Safety Canada released an announcement on the new Canada & U.S. Customs Preclearance Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport. Canada and the U.S. share the longest secure border in the world. Nearly 400,000 people and $2.6 billion worth of goods and services cross this border every day. Trade between the Canada and the United States remains strong, with an estimated $714.1 billion of goods and services trade in 2018 (exports of $360.5 billion and imports of $353.6 billion).
However, delays and other issues can easily disrupt operations. This highlights the importance of measures that ensure safe and secure travel and trade. Both countries have a long history of agreements that protect their citizens and economies. The latest preclearance agreement is designed to be more comprehensive than ever before, with procedures for all modes of transport as well as cross-border cargo movement.
Announcement of Canada & U.S. Customs Preclearance Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport
Enforcement of the new preclerance agreement will improve travel and trade, as it enables Canada and the U.S. to expand preclearance processes for travelers at additional airports and land, rail, marine facilities. The agreement also opens the door for the preclearance of commercial cargo.
According to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the agreement will create new opportunities in cargo and all modes of transport in both countries, as well as improve trade while protecting the rights of citizens. Ministers at other departments expressed support for the comprehensive agreement that will make travel and trade more convenient.
In the U.S., the acting secretary of homeland security stated that preclearance boosts economic competitiveness and mutual security, expedites travel clearances of Canadian citizens, and gives U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the opportunity to improve operations. CBP can now conduct full preclearance in the rail, ferry and cruise ship environments.
With the expansion, cargo can also preclear customs before it leaves the origin country, while travelers can continue to pre-clear with U.S. and Canada customs to skip lines at the airport, docks and transport terminals.
What is Preclearance?
Preclearance is a process that involves customs, agriculture and immigration inspections and other entry requirement enforcement in the origin country before the actual movement of goods and people across the border. A preclearance arrangement is a treaty between two countries that allows customs and immigration departments from the destination country to be located in the origin country in order to determine admissibility of cross-border goods and travelers.
For many years, Canada and the U.S. have successfully implemented preclearance operations. About 15 million passengers annually are precleared for flights to the U.S. from Canada’s eight largest airports. The U.S. started air preclearance Canadian airports in Canada in 1952.
From 2002 until August 2019, the preclearance agreement was enforced under the Air Transport Preclearance Agreement between the two countries and the Preclearance Act of 1999. While this agreement allowed for air preclearance of travelers, it did not cover other modes of transport or cargo operations. Canada and the U.S. signed a new treaty in 2015 (Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport Preclearance) that was a commitment of the 2011 Beyond the Border Action Plan.
LRMA and Preclearance Act, 2016
The agreement on land, rail, marine, and air (LRMA) transport preclearance between the U.S. and Canada issued on 4 February 2011 aims to enhance security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people and goods. It allows both countries to conduct preclearance procedures in all modes of transport and establish preclearance operations in the other country.
In Canada, the Air agreement were implemented through the Preclearance Act of 1999, while obligations under the LRMA have been implemented in Canada through the modernized Preclearance Act of 2016. The LRMA and Preclearance Act, 2016 were enforced on August 2019.
In June this year, preclearances had been planned for train passengers from Montreal to New York and on the Rocky Mountaineer railway in British Columbia. One pilot was launched at the border checkpoint between Lacolle, Quebec and Rouses Point, N.Y. Canadian border officers have also been pre-screening rail shipments through x-ray imaging of northbound rail cars on the U.S. side.
The comprehensive preclearance agreement is fully reciprocal in all modes of transport. In Canada, this means that Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials can conduct preclearance procedures in the U.S., and CBP officers can conduct the same in Canada. The agreement applies equally to Canadian officers working in the U.S. and U.S. officers working in Canada.
The U.S. is conducting preclearance at the following airports 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
CBP employs over 600 law enforcement officers and agriculture specialists stationed at these airports and others in Ireland, Aruba, The Bahamas, Bermuda, Abu Dhabi, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). CBP also staffs a pre-inspection facility for passenger/vehicle ferry traffic to the U.S. in Victoria, Canada.
CBP plans to cover more locations in the future. When evaluating interested airports, CBP conducts technical site visits and studies the facility’s current and future capabilities to host CBP preclearance operations and security screenings. The agency also looks at benefits to homeland security.
Similarly, Canada weighs a number of factors before implementing expanded preclearance procedures at select locations. These factors include economic benefits, financial implications, competitiveness, traffic flows, airport space and national security. The current sites chosen for preclearance are voluntary and market driven.
Benefits of Preclearance
- Early threat identification and resolution. Immigration and customs officials in both countries can identity and address safety, health and security risks like terrorism and crime long before travelers and cargo board cross-border transport.
- Improves national security efforts
- Facilitates international travel and commerce through all gateways
- Faster and more reliable transport services
- Increases capacity and create growth opportunities for transport facilities like air and marine ports
- Improves the passenger experience through faster connections and immediate exit upon landing/docking
- Facilitates the flow of legitimate cross-border trade while improving risk assessment
- Boosts trade and economic growth
Travelers may provide feedback to Canadian officials in case of problems arising from preclearance, such as x-ray searches, strip searches, monitored bowel movements, incidents that occur in or upon withdrawal from preclearance areas and related offenses.
Canada & U.S. Customs Preclearance Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport: Preparing for Change with GeTS
The new preclearance rules can mean more requirements (data and otherwise) for trade participants in Canada and the U.S. As customs clearance procedures are mostly electronic, new rules may also be enforced regarding data transmission. To ensure compliance and facilitate cross-border trade, traders work with third party providers like Global eTrade Services (GeTS).
GeTS is a CBP and CBSA-approved provider of advanced trade facilitation solutions based on the software-as-a-service model. For many years, GeTS has been helping the trading community in Canada and the U.S. meet customs requirements and prepare for transition before new rules are enforced.
To learn more, visit our Canada and US emanifest solutions pages or contact us today!
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