Why does Canada Border Services have no pre-clearance locations in the United States?

Posted by on Jan 9, 2022 in Brian's Blog, Travel | 0 comments

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has eight of them at Canadian airports. Travellers flying from Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg can clear immigration, customs and agricultural inspection before boarding U.S.-bound flights. This is particularly convenient for travellers making connecting flights from the U.S. to other countries. Once they have cleared immigration and customs in Canada, they don’t have to go through security again in the U.S. Their checked baggage also goes directly from Canada to their final destination.

It’s a different story for travellers coming back to Canada. If they have to stop in the United States along the way, they first have to go through American immigration, customs and security – even though they are only passing through – and then deal with Canadian immigration and customs when they get home.

This is a major headache, especially for frequent flyers. It could be easily avoided if Canada Border Services were to do what the Americans have done, and that is to put pre-clearance centres in the major U.S. airports, But no. While the Americans are extending pre-clearance operations to downtown Toronto and Quebec City, and also adding it to selected Canadian train stations, Canada is doing nothing to make things easier for travellers – Canadian, American and other – coming from the United States to Canada.

I realize there are many more major airports in the United States than in Canada, and that adding Canadian immigration and customs pre-clearance to all of them could be prohibitively expensive. But surely Canada Border Services could first establish a presence in the biggest U.S. airports – say Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago – and then gradually add Dallas/Fort Worth, New York, Denver, San Francisco and so on?

If Canada were to do this, millions of travellers would be grateful. More than 12 million of us took advantage of pre-clearance facilities when travelling from Canada to the United States in 2015.  The same number came from the U.S. to Canada, but with considerably greater delays and hassles at the border.

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