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

Just Posted

Police name second suspect, lay kidnapping and attempted murder charges in connection with Rudy Johnson Bridge incidents

Drynock is considered dangerous, do not approach him and call the local RCMP detachment immediately

Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidates react to finding Trudeau broke ethics law

The election campaign is heating up before the writ has even dropped

Links probable between homicide, missing persons investigation in Williams Lake

Rich ‘Savage’ Duncan the victim of Aug. 6 homicide

Heiltsuk challenges feds decision to award $67M contract to east coast towing company

Heiltsuk Horizon challenges decision to award emergency ship towing contract to Irving company

Jim Pattison takeover offer ‘non-binding,’ Canfor cautions investors

B.C. billionaire already big shareholder in forest industry

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Toronto activist calling on federal parties to nominate more black candidates

Fewer than 20 black Canadians have been nominated so far, including some Liberal MPs seeking re-election

Most Read