The U.S. and Canada signed March 16 an agreement on land, rail, marine and air transport preclearance that is designed to reduce congestion and delays at the border and increase efficiency and predictability in cross-border travel, tourism and transportation. The new agreement provides officials of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Canada Border Services Agency with the requisite authorities and tools to conduct on foreign soil the immigration, customs and agriculture inspections required for entry into their respective countries. However, until both sides enact legislation to implement this agreement, the existing Air Preclearance Agreement negotiated in 2001 will continue to apply.
Preclearance is the process by which CBP officers stationed abroad screen and make admissibility decisions about passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage heading to the U.S. before they leave a foreign port. However, officers also retain the authority to conduct inspections after arrival in the United States. CBP currently conducts preclearance operations at eight Canadian airports: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
A Department of Homeland Security press release states that the new agreement includes the following provisions.
- allows for the consideration of requests for new preclearance locations across all modes
- enables the exploration of co-location at small and remote ports, if desired
- updates the Air Preclearance Agreement to better reflect the post 9/11 operating environment, including policies and tools utilized at domestic ports of entry
- enables Canada to request that the United States regularize existing immigration pre-inspection sites (e.g., cruise, rail and ferry terminals in British Columbia)
- enhances authorities for preclearance officers, including the ability to carry firearms, defensive tools and restraint devices to the same extent that host party officers are permitted to carry in the relevant operating environments
- provides a shared jurisdictional framework in which the sending country may generally exercise primary criminal jurisdiction for acts committed by its officers in the performance of official duties in the host country
- retains the civil and administrative prosecutorial jurisdictions for preclearance officers provided for in the current Air Preclearance Agreement
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