The Entry/Exit Program is a significant development that has been many years in the making. Part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan, it is a joint Canada-U.S. initiative that establishes a coordinated entry/exit information system to facilitate the exchange of traveller biographic information (such as name and date of birth). Collected upon entry at the common land border, a record of entry into one country is now considered a record of exit from the other. In addition to the exchange of this data with the U.S. at land borders, the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) will collect exit data on all travellers leaving by air. Air carriers will begin sharing their data in 2020 and 2021. Consequently, overstay indicators will not begin appearing within the entry/exit search results for temporary residents who have overstayed their allowable time in Canada until the air carrier information is shared.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) will be able to obtain accurate and objective entry and exit information directly from CBSA to support the administration of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”), the Citizenship Act and the Canadian Passport Order.
Some intended uses for this information by IRCC will include:
- Verifying residency requirements to objectively confirm the information provided by the applicant, such as applications for grants of citizenship or permanent resident cards;
- Verifying if a temporary resident applicant may have previously overstayed their allowable period of admission in Canada;
- Assisting in an investigation into an individual’s entitlement to a Canadian travel document;
- Verifying that sponsors are residing in Canada;
- Verifying residence of spouses and partners under the Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada Class;
- Verifying whether a refugee claimant entered Canada using their travel documents; and
- Supporting investigations into possible fraud in relation to immigration, citizenship and passport and travel programs.
There is absolutely no doubt that this information will lead to more enforcement activity by IRCC and CBSA, with respect to immigration applications and immigration status of individuals in Canada. Given the significant implications for Canadian citizens, permanent residents and temporary residents, the public needs to be aware of such implications before filing immigration or citizenship applications to ensure they are diligent in providing accurate information on their application. Discrepancies, even if a genuine oversight, could be considered a misrepresentation under either IRPA or the Citizenship Act and result in significant consequences to the applicant. If an applicant is found to have misrepresented, not only will their application be refused but they could be subject to a five-year ban from making a subsequent application under IRPA or enforcement proceedings under IRPA or the Citizenship Act.
Travellers have the right to request a copy of their personal travel history through the Privacy Act and if there are discrepancies, they may bring corrections to the attention of CBSA. IRCC officers are notified of requested corrections and can re-query the CBSA’s database to obtain the most up-to-date information.
At this time, the entry/exit information will be used exclusively for all lines of business under immigration, citizenship and investigations. However, it is not hard to imagine that in the future this information could be used by other government departments including Canada Revenue Agency to verify residence, or by provincial governments to verify continued eligibility for public health insurance.
Gone are the days of an honour system and best efforts to recollect travel dates. The public needs to be forewarned and prepared when making any application to the Canadian government with respect to immigration or citizenship matters. Since the consequences are dire, routine applications to renew permanent resident cards or applying for Canadian citizenship must be taken seriously. Proper and accurate travel records must be kept including documentation to substantiate travel outside Canada, in the form of boarding passes, passport stamps and travel itineraries. This task has become more challenging due to paperless initiatives, including individuals using their mobile devices to receive boarding passes and CBSA moving away from the policy of stamping passports on entry and instead only scanning passports. The travelling public is therefore left in the dark without documentation to substantiate their best recollection.
Don’t be caught unaware, contact one of the lawyers at Corporate Immigration Law Firm for assistance with Canadian immigration and citizenship matters.