Canadian and United States border authorities crack down on flagpoling

Canadian and U.S. authorities have limited the number of ports of entry (POEs) that can be used as flagpoling sites.

As of May 30th, 2024, 12 Canada-U.S. border crossings will offer flagpoling services to newcomers at reduced service hours.

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What is flagpoling?

Flagpoling is a practice by which temporary residents (those on a work/study permit, or with a visitor visa/electronic Travel Authorization (eTA))—may receive immigration services in person at a POE, by exiting and returning to Canada within 24 hours.

This process is legal and has gained popularity for its ability to mitigate long processing times that often follow an application to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) when applying online or by paper.

While flagpoling is legitimate, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) advises that wait times can be extensive and advises newcomers to pursue online services with IRCC where possible.

Where can newcomers in Canada access flagpoling services?

Newcomers can still access flagpoling services at all POEs. The following locations, however, feature reduced hours of service:

Quebec Region

  • Armstrong—Monday-Thursday from 12 pm to 7 pm;
  • Saint Armand/Phillipsburg—Monday-Thursday from 9 am to 3 pm;
  • Saint Bernard de Lacolle—Monday-Thursday from 12 pm to 7 pm; and
  • Stanstead Route 55—Monday-Thursday from 8 am to 5 pm.

Southern Ontario Region

  • Fort Erie (Peace Bridge)—Tuesday-Thursday from 8 am to 12 am;
  • Niagra Falls Rainbow Bridge—Tuesday-Thursday from 8 am to 12 am; and
  • Queenston-Lewiston Bridge—Tuesday-Thursday from 8 am to 12 am.

Pacific Region

  • Abbotsford-Huntington—Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm;
  • Aldergrove—Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm;
  • Boundary Bar—Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm;
  • Douglas— Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm; and
  • Pacific Highway— Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Note: At the time of writing CBSA has threatened to enter a strike following wage disputes between the border authorities and the federal Canadian government. This may further impact flagpoling services for the duration of these negotiations.

What has caused the recent crackdown on flagpoling?

Statements by Canadian and U.S. officials indicate that new changes to flagpoling are largely due to increased traffic at the Canada-U.S. border, increasing processing stress on officers at the border.

In a statement to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), CBSA stated that they made changes to locations and hours of flagpoling services to increase efficiencies during peak travel times, and to “allow officers to focus on other priorities, including trade facilitation, high-risk travelers and asylum seekers”.

Comments by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer align with this view. At a recent press conference, Schumer elaborated on the problem, saying that the increased immigration traffic and wait times put Niagra Falls and New York economies at risk—” hampering smooth commerce” and tourism.

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