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Border Agencies Intensify Enforcement Against Flagpoling at Canadian-US Border

Border Agencies Intensify

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Canadian and U.S. authorities have restricted the number of ports of entry (POEs) available for flagpoling.

Starting May 30th, 2024, only 12 Canada-U.S. border crossings will provide flagpoling services for newcomers.

Understanding Flagpoling: A Guide for Newcomers

Flagpoling is a practice where temporary residents (those on a work/study permit or with a visitor visa/electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)) receive immigration services in person at a port of entry (POE) by exiting and re-entering Canada within 24 hours.

This legal process has gained popularity for reducing the long processing times often associated with applications to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) when done online or by paper.

While flagpoling is legitimate, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) warns that wait times can be extensive and recommends newcomers to use IRCC’s online services whenever possible.

Newcomers can access flagpoling services at the following locations and times:

Quebec Region

  • Armstrong—Monday-Thursday from 12 pm to 7 pm;
  • Saint Armand/Philipsburg —Monday-Thursday from 9 am to 3 pm;
  • Saint Bernard de Lacolle—Monday-Thursday from 12 pm to 7 pm; and
  • Stansted  Route 55—Monday-Thursday from 8 am to 5 pm.

Southern Ontario Region

  • Fort Erie (Peace Bridge)—Tuesday-Thursday from 8 am to 12 am;
  • Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge—Tuesday-Thursday from 8 am to 12 am; and
  • Queenston-Lewiston Bridge—Tuesday-Thursday from 8 am to 12 am.

Pacific Region

  • Abbotsford-Huntington—Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm;
  • Aldergrove—Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm;
  • Boundary Bar—Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm;
  • Douglas— Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm; and
  • Pacific Highway— Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Note: As of the time of writing, the CBSA has threatened to enter a strike due to wage disputes with the federal Canadian government. This may further impact flagpoling services during these negotiations.

Reasons for the Recent Crackdown on Flagpoling?

Statements by Canadian and U.S. officials reveal that the recent changes to flagpoling are primarily due to increased traffic at the Canada-U.S. border, which has heightened processing demands on border officers.

In a statement to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the CBSA explained that they adjusted the locations and hours of flagpoling services to improve efficiency during peak travel times. This allows officers to focus on other priorities, including trade facilitation, high-risk travellers, and asylum seekers.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed these sentiments in a recent press conference, highlighting the impact of increased immigration traffic and wait times on the economies of Niagara Falls and New York. Schumer emphasised that these challenges hinder smooth commerce and tourism in the region.

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