What to Say When Dealing With the CBSA
Tips for interacting with CBSA border officers at ports of entry.
The idea alone of being interviewed by armed people in uniforms can be quite scary. Based on my experiences, I will show you how you can reduce the stress when interacting with the border officers of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at ports of entry (airports, ports, or border crossings).
Above all, do your research. I encourage you to be as informed as possible, since knowledge is power (according to Sir Francis Bacon) and ignorance won’t be bliss in this situation. The following outline of the most common issues will help you to prepare yourself better.
1. Temporary Residence
In general, visa-exempt nationals who travel by air have required an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) since November 10, 2016.
Individuals who hold a valid Canadian Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) do not need to apply for an eTA as they may travel with their TRV until it expires.
For example, Mexican nationals who travel by air have required an electronic travel authorization since November 30, 2016. However, Mexicans who still possess a valid TRV may travel to Canada until it expires, as per section 13.18 of the ENF 4 Port of Entry Examinations:
If a valid visa inside an expired document is presented at the POE along with a valid passport, the visa is considered valid.
Note: Visa-exempt citizens do not need an eTA when arriving by land or sea.
b) Dual Intent
Having two intents – one for temporary residence and one for permanent residence – may be legitimate.
Section 22(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (S.C. 2001, c. 27) states as follows:
An intention by a foreign national to become a permanent resident does not preclude them from becoming a temporary resident, if the officer is satisfied that they will leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay.
The criteria normally considered are: ties to home country, purpose and length of visit, financial and family situation, economic and political stability of home country, previous compliance history, medical or criminal inadmissibility, etc.
When the border officer believes that the bona fide (good faith) applicant will leave Canada at the end of the authorized temporary period, the officer will use its discretion (right to decide) to approve the temporary residence application.
Currently, more than 70 countries around the world are using biometrics (fingerprints and photos) to find and stop the entry of people who pose a risk to national health and security.
Since July 31, 2018, applicants from Europe, Middle East, and Africa may need to provide the Government of Canada with their biometrics while applying for a TRV, a work or study permit (excluding U.S. nationals), permanent residence, or refugee status.
Starting December 31, 2018, the Canadian program will be extended to applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific, and the Americas. However, some exemptions may apply:
- Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants, passport applicants, or permanent residents;
- visitors who hold a valid eTA;
- minors under the age of 14;
- applicants over the age of 79;
- U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada;
- refugee claimants or protected persons who have already provided biometrics and are applying for a study or work permit;
- temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress;
- inland applicants until the in-Canada service is established.
3. Dual Citizens
Nowadays, many governments require that their citizens enter their country with a valid passport of the corresponding citizenship.
Since November 10, 2016, Canadian dual nationals have needed a valid Canadian passport to travel or transit through Canada by air. Thus, dual citizens should carry both passports on their journey depending on their destinations.
Exception: American-Canadian citizens with a valid U.S. passport don’t need a Canadian passport to fly to Canada.
Since December 1, 2017, Romanians with non-electronic passports will need a valid visa to travel to Canada. Only Romanian citizens who hold a valid electronic passport remain visa free, and like other visa-exempt travellers, can continue flying or transiting through a Canadian airport with a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).
Follow the guidelines set out by the CBSA and note the most common pitfalls:
a) Failure to report money
Travellers must report any currency (cash) or monetary instruments in the amount of CAD $10,000 or more in their possession to border officers. Monetary instruments may include stocks, bonds, bank drafts, cheques, traveller's cheques, etc. Travellers may bring as much money as they wish to and from Canada, but they must report the amount and prove the source of the income when it’s above CAD $10,000. Failure to report may lead to penalty and/or seizure. Penalties range from CAD $250 to CAD $5,000.
b) Failure to report goods
Travellers must declare all plant, animal, and food items they bring into Canada.
c) Failure to comply
Travellers may be referred to the inspections area (Secondary Examination) at a POE. Common reasons for referral are random check, detection of a scent by a canine unit (search dog), or in-depth verification. When referred to Secondary, you must follow the border officer’s directions in a composed manner. If you begin to experience feelings of agitation, seek help.
Tips for Success
As the border officers are extremely busy protecting Canada, you should keep the KISS (Keep It Simple but Smart) principle in mind at all times when following the steps below to obtain authorization to enter Canada:
1. Prepare your application well. If you hire an authorized representative, then ask for a dual intent letter/POE package and be on stand-by upon arrival to answer any questions that may arise.
2. Bring your travel documents and necessary supporting evidence with you.
3. Remain calm; answer questions honestly and to the point (less is more).
Follow the simple tips outlined above and, if your intent is genuine, the Canadian border officer will likely find you eligible to enter Canada.
Information provided in this article does not constitute immigration or citizenship advice. Authorized representatives are the only individuals allowed to assist applicants with immigration and citizenship services for a fee. In addition, immigration laws, regulations, and policies are changing constantly.
If you need help with the assessment of your case, then obtain sound immigration or citizenship advice from one of the authorized representatives at myconsultant.ca. Only with a proper case strategy can you reach your goal of Canadian permanent residence or Canadian citizenship.