A friend of mine grew up in Detroit and she used to go shopping in Canada all of the time. She would just cross the border, shop, and come back to Detroit. No documents, no questions, no problem. But those days are long gone.

In June 2014, the Toronto Sun reported an embarrassing incident where Canadian border agents repeatedly stopped Grammy-winning superstar John Legend at the U.S.-Canada border. Mr. Legend took to Twitter to urge our Canadian friends to stop confusing him with another U.S. citizen with a criminal record. But why all of a sudden does it appear that the Canadians know about criminal incidents (even minor ones) that U.S. citizens committed in the U.S.?

On February 4, 2011, the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the United States issued Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness. The Declaration established a new long-term U.S.-Canadian partnership built upon a “perimeter approach to security and economic competitiveness.” Although our northern neighbors have joined the U.S. in tightening border scrutiny, the new cross-border initiative provides the Canadian Border Services Agency with more access to criminal records of U.S. citizens, while enhancing security measures at land and air ports-of-entry. Below is a sample of some of the mechanisms that are in place and those in proposal.

Entry-Exit Information Systems: The new coordinated entry and exit system includes a method to share information between the U.S. and Canada so that the record of a land entry into one country can be utilized to establish an exit record from the other. Information sharing includes the exchange and reconciliation of biographic entry information for U.S. Citizens, Canadians and third-country nationals. No more quick unmonitored shopping trips to and from Detroit!

Interactive Advance Passenger Information (IAPI): In 2015, Canada will enhance its current traveler risk assessment practice by conducting assessment of flights departing for Canada. Following the assessment, the IAPI system will convey a “board” message to air carriers for passengers who hold valid documentation. A “do not board” message will be sent for those passengers who do not hold valid documentation to board an aircraft. The U.S. and Australia currently use a similar system.

Canada’s proposed electronic Travel Authorization (eTA): Canada’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration and the Canada Border Services Agency reports that in 2012–2013, approximately 7,055 visa-exempt foreign nationals were found inadmissible to Canada for various reasons at airports of entry when they arrived in Canada. At present, there is no mechanism in place to verify the status of foreign nationals who do not require a temporary resident visa to travel to Canada.

In June 2014, Canada proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations that would require foreign nationals who are currently exempt from a temporary resident visa requirement to hold an eTA when seeking to enter Canada by air. This will enable Canada to know of admissibility concerns of visa-exempt foreign nationals prior to their arrival at a Canadian air port of entry. U.S. citizens would be exempt from this pre-departure screening.

We will continue to monitor cross-border U.S. and Canadian initiatives. If you have a cross-border immigration question, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Posted by: Holly Hatton