President Donald Trump meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, June 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, June 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Canada and U.S. to add preclearance options for land, sea, rail travellers

Passengers have been able to clear customs before flying to U.S. for decades at Canadian airports

A new agreement between Canada and the United States will soon allow travellers and cargo to pre-clear customs before they leave, allowing an easier movement of people and goods crossing the border.

Canadian air travellers have been able to clear customs before flying to the U.S. for decades at Canadian airports, letting them skip lineups when they land in the United States.

The two countries have agreed to add U.S. preclearance operations at Billy Bishop airport in Toronto and Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City.

The new agreement extends preclearance for travellers crossing by land, rail and sea. Early stages of planning are underway for preclearances for train passengers travelling from Montreal into New York and on the Rocky Mountaineer railway in British Columbia, which extends into Washington state.

Preclearance operations will be expanded to additional airports, and will, for the first time, allow preclearances of cargo travelling across the border.

READ MORE: U.S. searches of phones, laptops at airports rising, lawsuit says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump announced Thursday that they intend to implement the new preclearance agreement this summer as part of a deal that has been in the works for years.

“Delays at the border can easily disrupt operations for Canadian and American business owners, so we want to remove some of these obstacles to expand trade while keeping our people safe,” Trudeau told reporters Thursday.

“(The preclearance agreement) is going to ensure our border remains safe as we move forward with greater back-and-forth of our goods and our people. That is something that is fundamental and essential to Canadians.”

Trudeau didn’t say when travellers will see the new measures in place.

The agreement was first announced in 2015 but required a number of regulatory changes in both countries before it could be enacted. Canada passed its legislation in 2017.

While air travellers flying from several Canadian airports have long been able to clear U.S. customs before going to the United States, flyers going from the United States to Canada have not. Canada could have implemented a similar model to the one used by the U.S. but has chosen not to.

Information obtained through access-to-information law shows Canada has taken a cautious approach, weighing a number of factors including economic benefits and competitiveness, traffic flows, space constraints at airports, national-security considerations and financial implications.

Decisions on how and where the newly expanded preclearance measures will be rolled out will also be based on a “careful assessment of the benefits and costs of preclearance at specific locations for passengers and cargo,” said Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

Sites chosen for preclearance are voluntary and market-driven, he added.

As for when cargo preclearance will get underway, Bardsley said Canada will proceed gradually, using pilot projects. One has already been launched at the border checkpoint between Lacolle, Que., and Rouses Point, N.Y.

Canadian border officers have been pre-screening rail cargo by viewing x-ray images of northbound rail cars on the U.S. side, using imaging technology already in use by American officials who screen rail cars bound for the U.S.

As part of this pilot, American border officers capture x-ray images of the rail cars headed for Canada and then Canadian border officials flag any possible irregularities and then process the goods in Canada.

“The pilot will form the basis of proof of concept for any future cargo preclearance operations in the U.S.” says a briefing note prepared for Goodale in September 2018.

“We are currently reviewing the feasibility of possible opportunities for Canadian preclearance in the U.S. in addition to the existing pre-ratification rail pilot.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. In describing the current availability of customs preclearances, a previous version said services are available in the U.S. for travel to Canada but not in Canada for travel to the U.S., reversing the reality.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

A vehicle rolled over off of the Highway 3 off ramp into the Home Hardware parking lot Jan. 21, 2021. Photo: Betsy Kline
Driver sent to hospital after vehicle roll over in Castlegar

Accident happened Thursday around 4:30 p.m.

Interior Health has set up a COVID-19 testing site in Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
No new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Castlegar for Jan. 10-16

The latest localized BCDCD COVID-19 numbers

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Long-term care staff and physicians from the priority group received their first dose of Moderna vaccine on Friday, Jan. 15, including Dr. Corrine Knox. Photo: Submitted
Moderna vaccine arrives in Castlegar

Vaccine rollout began in West Kootenay with long term care residents and staff the first recipients

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Volunteer firefighters from Grand Forks Fire/Rescue head towards the scene of fatal car crash near Gibbs Creek Road, below Highway 3, Thursday evening, Jan. 21. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Motorist dies in Highway 3 crash west of Grand Forks

City first responders were called to the scene Thursday evening, Jan. 21

Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram could be playing for Colorado when the NHL resumes play. (Rik Fedyck/file)
Cranbrook product Bowen Byram makes NHL debut with Avalanche

Highly touted prospect marks first pro game following World Junior tournament in Alberta

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

Most Read