By the end of 2020 Canada’s system of tracking the exit of people from the country is going to look very different from now.

Regulations are expected to come into force by June 2019 for land and June 2020 for air.

Current System

Under Canada’s immigration and customs laws, all persons seeking to enter the country are required to present themselves at a port of entry and answer all Canada Border Services Agency questions truthfully. Entry information is thus collected on all travellers who lawfully enter the country.

However, the Government of Canada currently does not have access to reliable exit information on all persons leaving Canada.  As a result, it cannot easily determine who is inside or outside the country at any given time, nor can it easily determine when someone left the country.

An exception to this is that since June 2013 the CBSA has exchanged biographic entry records for foreign nationals and permanent residents through an information-sharing arrangement with the United States, such that an entry into one country confirms the departure from the other.  However, it does not obtain de-facto exit information on Canadian citizens.

The Future

People who are exiting Canada will not need to report to the CBSA when leaving.  Rather, CBSA will collect exit information from other agencies (such as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where the arrival of a person by land into the United States would count as an exit from Canada) or commercial air carriers.

The Exit Information Regulations will require that commercial air carriers provide traveller information beginning at 72 hours prior to a flight’s scheduled time of departure.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency will soon (and some would say finally) have accurate and objective entry and exit information. IRCC has announced that it will be able to use the information directly to:

  • verify residency requirements to process an ongoing application to objectively verify the information provided by clients for citizenship applications and permanent resident cards;
  • verify if a temporary residence applicant has previously overstayed their allowable period of admission in Canada;
  • verify that sponsors are residing in Canada where required by law;
  • verify relationships and compliance with conditions for spouses and partners applying for or admitted under the family class;
  • verify if a refugee claimant entered Canada using their travel documents; and
  • verify residency requirements to determine if a medical examination is required.

Cost and Benefit

The Government of Canada estimates that it will cost $79.60 million over the first 10-year period to develop and maintain the necessary IT systems to support the collection of exit information.  The government further estimates that airlines collectively will spend an additional $30.33 million to update their systems.

However, the Government of Canada estimates that the benefits from tracking exits will be $357.17 over the first 10-year period of tracking exits.  It estimates saving $206.11 million through reduced Employment Insurance and Old Age Security fraud as well as $151.06 million through reduced tax fraud.

Of course, the government also lists numerous qualitative benefits, including reduced immigration fraud.

Beyond the Future

The tracking and collection of exit data has implications beyond those stated by the government above.  If IRCC’s Global Case Management System is going to be updated to track entries, then presumably the lack of an exit data point will mean that Canadian immigration authorities will immediately be able to determine whether someone has stayed in Canada beyond their authorized stay. This could have significant consequences, and it remains to be seen whether the tracking of exits results in an immigration system that responds much more swiftly to people who overstay.