Entering Canada – What happens at Canadian border crossing (or airport)

Entering Canada – At Canadian border crossing (or airport)

Many of my clients feel anxious every time when they have to enter Canada even though they are not hiding anything or doing anything illegal.

There are several reasons for that.

One reason my be the fact that they already have had some unpleasant experience with border service officers in their own country or any other country apart from Canada.

Another reason might be due to the fact that Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers may or may not allow entry into Canada to any temporary residents (such as foreign workers, students, visitors or temporary resident permit holders). In other words they  have discretion to allow entry into Canada and they can prevent someone from entering Canada.

In worst case scenarios CBSA officer can detain foreign nationals, sometimes indefinitely (for example if they are not able to establish their identity). Less dramatic scenario would be when someone gets deported due to a serious violation of the Canadian law.

Another reason which contributes to the border crossing anxiety is the fact that most travelers arrive at the Canadian border after long oversea flights usually 8-9 hours long, sometimes late at night. When they finally touch down in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary etc. they are pretty tired and often describe themselves as zombies.

How it works

Most foreign workers, students and visitors arrive in Canada by airplane therefore they have to speak with CBSA officers working at the airports.

Normally they first approach CBSA officers just after they get off the plane and this is known as primary examination – CBSA officer will ask you what is the purpose of your trip to Canada, whether you have enough funds to support yourself during your stay in Canada, whether you have return ticket etc.

They do not have much time do speak with you so it is important that you provide short, clear and straight-forward answers to their questions. If they think something does not add up in your answers or your overall behaviour is suspicious they may decide to send you to the secondary examination and also they may flag your luggage for detailed inspection.

Also if you say you are coming to Canada to work and you are supposed to be issued work permit at the Canadian border (this is possible for citizens of those countries which do not require visitor visa to enter Canada) you will be sent to another office where another CBSA officer will issue your work permit (or study permit or visitor’s record).

There is a fairly popular TV show in Canada called Border Security: Canada’s Front Line which follows what happens at the Canadian border crossings, airports and post offices which process packages arriving from other countries into Canada.

This show is interesting because all sorts of people cross the border and some of them are less than honest when they claim their intentions for entering Canada.

By watching these episodes on Youtube you can get a sense what you will have to go through when you arrive at Canadian airport or border crossing which may (or may not) reduce any anxiety that you might have in that regard.

Please note: looking for work in Canada while you have visitor status is not illegal but if you tell CBSA officer that you come to Canada to look for work they may not allow you entry into Canada simply because they may not believe that you won’t work without authorization once you have a job offer from a Canadian employer.

If you have any questions about border crossing or anything else mentioned in this post please contact me at an time.