Last Updated on December 4, 2019
2019-12-04 – Temporary residents are increasingly turning to flagpoling to receive fast immigration services such as a work permit or new permanent residence status.
Flagpoling is the term given to when a person already in Canada leaves and returns without crossing into the USA, in order to activate a new permanent resident status, be granted a renewed study or work permit, or a change of status, for example from visitor to work permit holder.
The process puts extra burden on Canada Border Service Agency staff, and can create delays at already busy border points.
It is a perfectly legal process, although Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, along with the CBSA, have tried to limit its use, preferring candidates to apply to immigration services to change or renew their status.
The problem is this application can take weeks or months. With flagpoling, the processing is done on the spot.
Stakeholders say the increase in numbers of work permit, study permit and permanent residency applications is making flagpoling an option that candidates are increasingly turning to.
IRCC figures show that more than nearly 120,000 people were waiting for work or study permits to be processed as of November 19, 2019.
Further, more than 9,500 people were waiting for permanent residence as of September 30, 2019.
With IRCC planning to welcome more than 330,000 new immigrants in 2019, the administrative burden is increasing.
The CBSA moved to restrict the days and times flagpoling was allowed at ports of entry in 2018 because of the increase in activity.
IRCC says more staff have been taken on at processing centres, while there is a plan to create an electronic application system for temporary resident programs such as work permits and study permits.
Candidates are encouraged to use in-Canada systems, with IRCC officials asking advisors to stop encouraging the use of flagpoling.
IRCC points out that, in most cases, Post-Graduation Work Permit applicants are allowed to work while their permits are being processed.
Also, those applying for work or study permits before their current permit ends are given ‘implied status’ until the decision is made.
What Is Flagpoling?
Flagpoling is the term given to when a person already in Canada leaves and returns without crossing into the USA, in order to activate a new permanent resident status or be granted a renewed study or work permit.
It is known as a time-saving alternative to applying to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, where processing times can run into weeks and months. By flagpoling, candidates present themselves at the Canadian Port of Entry, and are processed often in less than 30 minutes.
The term is derived from travelling ‘around the flagpole’, before presenting yourself at the border.
Who Can Flagpole?
Flagpoling is used by study and work permit holders looking to renew their permits. They take all their documentation to a U.S. border point and can be processed in minutes at the border.
It is also used by temporary residents of Canada who wish to validate permanent resident status. It is a quick and cheap alternative to waiting months for an appointment as an IRCC office.
The following can flagpole:
- Residents of visa-exempt countries with an LMIA-exempt job.
- Residents of visa-exempt countries in possession of a positive LMIA.
- Residents of the U.S., St. Pierre & Miquelon and Greenland.
- Residents of visa-required countries already in possession of a study or work permit (flagpoling for the purposes of renewal).
* Seasonal agricultural workers are not eligible to flagpole
What Are the Disadvantages?
While the processing is fast once you arrive at the border, you still need to get there and wait in line. If you live near the border and own a car, this is easy, but otherwise there can be time and expense involved. However, it will still be quicker than applying to the IRCC.
It is advisable to plan a trip to the U.S. as part of the flagpoling process. If you choose to flagpole without visiting the U.S., you will be formally denied entry. While this is fine as part of a one-time process, it will complicate the situation every time you enter the U.S. in future, as you will always be asked if you have ever been denied entry. By planning a day trip, this can be prevented.
In theory, you could also be caught between the two countries, denied entry to both the U.S. and Canada.
What Is the Process?
On arrival at U.S. border control, a candidate should inform the customs agent of the intention to directly flagpole. A slip will be issued that is an administrative refusal to the U.S.
Candidates are then directed round to the Canadian border control where the right documentation must be presented (see below), depending on the purpose of the flagpoling trip.
What Documents Are Required?
For Study/Work Permit
- Existing Study or Work Permit.
- For Work Permit:
Job contract signed by candidate and employer.
Plus if required:
Provincial nomination certificate.
Letter of support from provincial nomination program.
Valid medical examination certificate if employed in public health or have lived for six months in certain countries.
- For Study Permit:
Official offer letter from recognised educational institution.
Proof of financial support.
Plus if required:
Letter of explanation.
Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ).
Custodian declaration (minors only).
For Permanent Residence Validation
- Passport or travel document with visa sticker
- Confirmation of permanent residence or letter from Canadian visa office
- Proof of legal status in Canada, including one of:
- Work Permit
- Study Permit
- Temporary Residence Visa
- Other document
- Proof of implied status, for example:
- Payment receipt
- Copy of extension application