May 8, 2018 – The Canada Border Services Agency is facing criticism for quietly limiting when the process known as ‘flag poling’ can take place at certain border points in Southern Ontario and Quebec.
These busier crossing points now only allow flag poling from Tuesday to Thursday each week as part of a pilot project begun in Ontario and recently extended to Quebec. It appears the pilot was not publicly announced, although Canadian Bar Association members were notified.
Flag poling is the term given to when a person already in Canada leaves and returns in order to activate a new permanent resident status or be granted a renewed study or work permit.
Targeted border crossings with limited access for flag poling include Rainbow, Queenston-Lewiston and Peace bridges in Ontario, plus Lacolle and St-Armand in Quebec. Between them, the Ontario border points processed 45. Million travellers in 2017, while the Quebec points processed 1.2 million.
Under the pilot project, candidates who arrive outside Tuesday to Thursday are allowed back into Canada to apply online, by mail, or by appointment for their required service. They also have the option of returning between Tuesday and Thursday, although they are warned same-day processing might not be possible.
Stakeholders are suggesting the move to restrict flag poling hours may be unlawful, particularly given the lack of public announcement.
What Is Flag poling?
Flag poling 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 flag poling, 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?
Flag poling 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 (flag poling 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 flag poling 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 flag poling 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
Interested employers: Kindly contact us here to receive further information.
Interested candidates: Find out whether you qualify to Canada by completing our free on-line evaluation. We will provide you with our evaluation within 1-2 business days.
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