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Canada Puts Restrictions on ‘Flagpoling’ at Some Border Crossings

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Canada Puts Restrictions on ‘Flagpoling’ at Some Border Crossings

Jade Calver

According to an article published by the Toronto Star, the Canadian government plans to restrict ‘flagpoling’ at a number of Canadian borders. Last summer, a pilot project was implemented at the Rainbow, Queenston-Lewiston, and Peace bridges. The project has since expanded to include the Quebec border crossings Lacolle and St-Armand.

What is ‘flagpoling?’

‘Flagpoling’ is a term used to describe a specific method of validating immigration status at the Canadian border. When an individual is refused entry to the United States, they will re-enter Canada to validate their new immigration status. This practice was coined “flagpoling” because “applicants make a quick U-turn at flagpoles.” This process is often used to activate permanent resident status or for the renewal of study permits, work permits, and permanent residency. Applicants employ this strategy because it is much faster than other methods of validating residency, such as scheduling a landing interview.  

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Why does the government want to limit it?

The flagpoling process takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. While this is a quick exchange for applicants, those waiting to enter Canada for travel are forced to wait in longer lines than usual to accommodate applicant processing. The government plans to limit flagpoling in order to mitigate excessive border crossing wait times for travellers wishing to enter the country. In 2017, “the agency’s southern Ontario ports of entry processed 4.5 million travellers at the Rainbow, Queenston and Peace bridges, with another 1.2 million at the St-Bernard-de-Lacolle and St-Armand/Philipsburg border entries.”

How will the government implement changes?

The government plans to limit the number of applicants who engage in flagpoling by restricting the practice to certain days of the week. Through this pilot project, candidates who arrive between Friday and Monday may be required to apply online, by mail, or by appointment to receive required services. Candidates who return between Tuesday and Thursday may be able to gain entrance back into the country, but same-day processing is not guaranteed.

What does this mean?

Many applicants have been refused application processing requests upon their return to Canada. This means that some individuals may be required to validate their status through a landing interview, which can take weeks (sometimes months) to schedule. In the meantime, the applicant may lose their resident status and take on visitor status. This, in turn, can impact access to health and social insurance.

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