In preclearance operations, border officers from the “inspecting country” (e.g., the U.S. or Canada) carry out customs and immigration inspections in the “host country” (e.g., Canada or the U.S.) before allowing goods or people into the inspecting country. For instance, in the rail mode, this could involve pre-clearing passengers and their luggage in Canada before passengers leave the train station, thereby avoiding a stop at the Canada/U.S. border.
The objective of preclearance is to improve and expedite the flow of legitimate trade and travel while continuing to ensure border security and integrity.
Canada and the U.S. have some of the highest levels of cross-border trade and travel in the world. Every day nearly 400,000 people cross the Canada–U.S. land border, along with over $2 billion in goods and services. This activity is vital to the economic prosperity of both countries; free and open trade generates jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
In addition to strengthening the integrity and security of the border, preclearance activities under the existing bilateral air transport preclearance framework makes air travel more efficient for roughly 11 million passengers every year at eight of Canada’s busiest international airports. It allows them to avoid lengthy and unpredictable customs lines in the U.S., and creates a more comprehensive transportation network for them by giving privileged access to non-international U.S. airports (i.e., those without customs and immigration inspection facilities). It also facilitates improved transborder passenger flows through Canadian airports and increases their competitiveness as hubs for in-transit travel.
Existing marine and rail operations in BC are enabling local ports to serve as hubs for cruise ships destined to small Alaskan ports that lack customs facilities, for ferries and for facilitating the cross-border movement of U.S.-bound trains from Vancouver.
In February 2014, a truck cargo pre-inspection pilot launched at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario, tested if preclearance could facilitate legitimate trade and travel by enhancing border efficiency and reducing wait times/border congestion. Canada and the U.S. are working together to determine whether, based on a joint evaluation, it makes sense to establish preclearance operations on a more permanent basis at this location.
Once it enters into force, this new comprehensive Agreement would enable Canada and the U.S. to implement new and/or expanded preclearance operations in other locations and transportation modes, where and when it makes sense to do so, while continuing to ensure border security and integrity.
There are several steps that need to take place by Canada before the Agreement can enter into force, including the tabling of the signed Agreement in Parliament for 21 sitting days and the introduction and passing of legislation by Parliament. This would be followed by the ratification of the Agreement by both countries.
For more information on the approval process involved, you can refer to the Policy on Tabling of Treaties in Parliament.