Sep 302015

Canada and the U.S are implementing a program that will provide customs and border  officers of both countries information on each trip you make across either border.   The Border Protection officer will be able to see when you left each country, and when you return.   A pilot program has begun that will establish procedures to fully implement this capability in 2014.

Ports to be used in the pilot project

  • Pacific Highway, Surrey, British Columbia / Pacific Highway, Blaine, Washington
  • Peace Arch, Surrey, British Columbia / Peace Arch, Blaine, Washington
  • Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario / Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, Lewiston, New York
  • Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, Ontario / Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, New York

Border crossing information to be shared in the pilot program

  • first name, last name, middle name
  • date of birth
  • nationality
  • gender
  • document type
  • document number
  • document country of issuance
  • work location code / U.S. port of entry codes
  • date of entry
  • time of entry
  • border crossing port used by the traveler

Exit / Entry Program Benefits

Government officials tout this program as a way to:
  • identify persons who potentially overstay their lawful period of admission
  • track the departure of persons subject to removal orders
  • verify that residency requirements are being met by applicants for continued eligibility in immigration programs
  • help identify people involved in organized crime or terrorism

Privacy Issues

Both countries state that the process of collecting and sharing personal information will be done in accordance with each country’s privacy laws and policies.  However, you should be aware that as a general rule, courts do not grant you the same protections for information regarding your border crossings that they do for other types of personal information.

The official press release also says that that during the pilot program, “the intention is that there will be no enforcement action” based on information obtained during the pilot program.  We suspect that the words for the press release were very carefully chosen, and that you should not expect to get away with a violation of the law if it is noted during this implementation period.

This pilot program is titled the Entry/Exit initiative and is part of the “Beyond the Border Action Plan”.  For more information on what types of information is collected and retained during your border crossing see our page “What They Know About You”.

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Apr 202015

Entering Canada with a Criminal Record

On March 1, 2012 Canada issued a new policy to facilitate travel to Canada for U.S based travelers with a criminal conviction on their record.  The policy was implemented as part of Canada‘s “Tourism Facilitation Action Plan” (TFAP).

Under the new policy, U.S. citizens traveling to Canada MAY be able to obtain a Temporary Resident Permit, which is the permit that allows an inadmissible person to travel to Canada, without paying the $200 CAD processing fee.  The processing fee may be waived if the individual meets all of the following criteria:

  •   They have only a SINGLE criminal conviction on their record
  •  The offence is not serious in nature and;
  •    They were not sentenced to any jail time for that conviction

Call for a free consultation about entering Canada with a DUI

This new policy in no way guarantees entry, it simply waives the fee associated with applying for the permit.  This fee exemption is also only applicable for one-time travel.  If the applicant is seeking re-entry on a TRP, the fee will apply even if the above criteria are met.  The Canadian Border Services Agent will have complete discretion to allow, or deny, entry to anybody.

Although the intent of this policy (OB 389) was to be to allow easier one-time entry to travelers with “minor” offenses  the laws regarding admissibility have not changed – only the fee, for certain individuals.  This policy has not resulted in easier entry to Canada for those with minor offenses.  Travellers should still prepare the application for a Temporary Resident Permit, in advance of travel.

As Citizenship and Immigration Canada state in their application statement:  “To be eligible for a temporary resident permit, your need to enter or stay in Canada must outweigh the health or safety risks to Canadian society, as determined by an immigration or a border services officer.  Even if the reason you are inadmissible seems minor, you must demonstrate that your visit is justified.”

Procedure to Obtain the Temporary Resident Permit

To cross the border under OB 389 you will need to fill out a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) at a Canadian visa office or when you arrive at the border.  The normal $200 TRP fee will be waived for this one time.

The normal $200 TRP fee will be waived for this one time.   A Canada Customs and Immigration officer will review the TRP and any other information you provide.  They will then decide if you will be issued the permit, for your particular reason for travel and determine if you will be allowed to enter the country.  This special TRP is valid as a one-time pass issued for a specific period of time.  It will expire when the traveller leaves Canada or on a date specified on the permit.

We have heard reports that most people are denied approval for a TRP when applying at the border when trying to cross.     This makes a certain amount of sense to us as border officials may not feel they have all of the information they need and may not be willing to take the time to research all aspects of your offense.  This may also happen if the officer believes that you do not have a significant reason to travel.  For these reasons it is imperative to have a well-prepared application to submit to the border officer.

Because this is a “once-in-a-lifetime” waiver, you will need go through the normal process of applying and paying for a TRP or a Rehabilitation Document for later border crossings. The same is true if you do not qualify under OB 389.

Reason for OB 389

Many tourists or business travelers from the United States are stopped by Canada Customs and denied entry to the country because they have a prior criminal conviction on their record – even if it occurred decades ago.  The biggest surprise is that you cannot get into Canada with any type of alcohol related driving offense.  Thousands of travelers are turned away every year at airports, ferry crossings, and land border crossings for DWI or DUI convictions.

OB 389 was driven by Canadian tourist industry complaints about lost American tourist dollars.   This is a temporary rule that is supposed to be replaced by a permanent rule in the future.

Stay Informed – Keep us Informed

We will update this post with additional information as it becomes available.  You should bookmark this post and check back to it if you are considering using this new process.

We would very much like to hear if you, or anyone you know, uses this procedure to cross the border.  Please email us with the results of any attempt to enter Canada under OB 389.



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Oct 202012

If you are thinking about applying for a NEXUS or Global Entry card you should watch out for companies that offer to handle the process for you.

Putting the term “nexus border crossing card application” into search engines such as Google, Bing, or AOL, will bring up many listings for private companies that claim they will make the process easier for you.  These sites look very official and can be mistaken for the real U.S or Canadian government website.  Although there is nothing illegal with what they are doing, the fact is you will pay hundreds of dollars for assistance you probably don’t need.

Applying for NEXUS or Global Entry is pretty straightforward.  You should go to the official Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) website which has been set up by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA)  to handle the registration process.   It will not be surprising if you have questions about the registration process, but you should then call 1-866-639-8726 from either the United States or Canada and ask for assistance.

For more information about the various “trusted traveler programs” and the documentation you need to cross the border see our page which discusses “Types of Documentation“.

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Jul 242012

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has good news for the estimated one million U.S. citizens living in Canada who have not been filing U.S. tax returns.  As of September 1, 2012, U.S. citizens can follow a new procedure called the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program to come clean and bring themselves into full tax compliance without massive penalties.  This is important  because the U.S. and Canada are moving towards sharing banking records.  Once this sharing is implemented,  Americans residing in Canada with Canadian bank accounts would very likely be arrested when they tried to cross the U.S. Canadian border.

IRS Tax Amnesty program announced for Americans living in CanadaThe new program requires individuals to submit three years of back tax returns, six years of bank account reporting forms (TD F 90-22.1 – Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, also known as FBARs) and a letter explaining why they haven’t filed.

This procedure is only available for “low compliance risk” taxpayers – people who have simple returns and owe $1,500 or less in tax for any covered years.  It is estimated that 90 per cent of Americans living in Canada will qualify for this program.  If you owe a lot of tax, or  have closely held partnerships, investment companies, or trusts, you may not qualify.

There is also a new “streamlined” procedure for reporting certain foreign retirement accountants, and the IRS specifically mentioned that it would apply to Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Accounts.  Individuals will be allowed to retroactively elect to defer income in those accounts.

The IRS has not set an expiration date for this program but they can change its terms.

Background on IRS Move to Tax Foreign Income

The United States is unique among developed countries in requiring all citizens, including dual Canadian-Americans, to file a tax return with the IRS every year regardless of where they live.   It does not matter how long you have lived in Canada, or whether you earned any U.S. income.  The filing requirement applies even if you have never actually resided in the United States – which occurs when people have dual citizenship thanks to an American-born parent.

U.S. citizens are also required to list all foreign back accounts they own.  Given that someone living in Canada is most likely going to have a Canadian bank account, virtually all Americans residing in Canada are in violation of U.S. tax laws unless they file an annual U.S. tax return.

Although the IRS is mostly trying to nab wealthy Americans who hide their assets offshore, this law snares many otherwise law-abiding Canadian residents who didn’t realize they had to file a 1040 tax return annually.  Without this new amnesty program, Americans who haven’t filed their 1040’s could face penalties adding up to tens of thousands of dollars per year and even risk criminal prosecution.

You can visit the IRS website for more information on this program but most people will probably require professional legal or accounting assistance to figure out the right course of action.

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Jun 232012

Personal exemption limits have been raised for Canadians returning to the country with goods purchased in the United States.  This allows Canadians to avoid duties and taxes on more purchases when they return to Canada after a U.S. shopping trip.

The changes are an attempt to reduce border congestion by allowing border guards to waive more cars through without checking their purchases.  In addition, the new import ceilings will harmonize the Canadian levels with U.S. limits.

As of Friday, June 1, 2012, exemption limits have been changed to the following:

New Personal Exemption Limits for Canadians Returning From the U.S.

Old Exemption Amount New Exemption Amount
After 24 Hours in the U.S. $50 $200
After 48 Hours in the U.S. $400 $800
After 7 days in the U.S. $750 $800

Note that under the new law there is no longer any specified seven-day limit on duty-free purchases as it is the same as the 48 hour limit.

Exemption Limits That Are Not Changing

  • You will continue to pay full taxes and duties on all purchases if your visit is for less than 24 hours
  • Personal Exemptions for alcohol and tobacco

Why Do Canadians Want to Shop in the United States?

As of May 2012, goods in the United States are roughly 14% cheaper than prices for the same item in Canada.   This changes constantly with currency fluctuations and general economic conditions.  This price difference can be even greater on specific items.  For example, one study found that running shoes that cost $146 in Canada would sell for $107 in the U.S.  It also found that a lawn mower that sells for $480 in Canada retails for $360 in the United States.

More information on Canadian Duties and Taxes

For more information on Duties and Taxes for both Canadian and American citizens see our page titled “What Will It Cost?

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