Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson signed a customs pre-clearance agreement for travel by land, sea and rail after years of planning. Should the legal and budgetary approval go through, the arrangement plans to allow customs agents to work in each other’s countries.
The main advantage of a deal like this is that customs agents from both countries could screen passengers away from the border, which would ease the notorious choke points of the busy Port of Entries. You may recognize the smoothness of such a program from the process that already exists in eight airports for air travel, such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Through this process, travellers can clear U.S. customs in the Canadian city they are departing from and then skip the lines in the U.S. airport they land in.
The initial plan to expand the program to land and sea travel was outlined in the Beyond the Border deal of 201 between Stephen Harper and Barack Obama. It was not until recently that the Prime Minister and the President reached a legal agreement officially authorizing law-enforcement officials to operate inside the neighboring country.
Blaney claims the program will enhance security at both borders, while simultaneously creating jobs by, “improving the flow of legitimate goods and people between [the] two countries.” The agreement applies to all modes of transport, and customs agents will be allowed to carry firearms in each other’s countries.
What remains rather blurry is how the plan will actually be implemented. Questions that have gone unanswered surround the required legislation for both countries and the probability of similar legislation being passed in both government systems; budgeting for the new customs infrastructure away from the border has yet to be proposed; and participation of the private sector in bus and train stations has not yet been discussed.
Despite the minor holes in the plan, what this could mean for travellers is shorter wait times and more scrutinizing questioning periods than before. The unification of both American and Canadian border services will mean more hard pressed interrogations, in order to maintain the idea of teamwork amongst the countries. If you are approaching the border after this plan has been implemented, it is a dire necessity that you have all the necessary paperwork so that your time at the border can be as short and sweet as the agents would like it to be.
FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.