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Canada Border Security: Immigration and Customs at Entry to Canada

What to expect when entering Canada through security and customs.

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Being denied entry into Canada is tough and embarrassing for many. Millions of people come to Canada every year whether it is temporary or for permanent residence. However, not always will you be allowed entry into Canadian soil. Below, we will explain why you can be denied entry into Canada because of security purposes and what you need to know in order to avoid this from happening.

All travellers arriving in Canada are obligated by Canadian law to present themselves to a border services officer, respond truthfully to all questions and accurately report their goods. This includes a requirement to report any food, plant and animal products in their possession.

We remind travellers to have all identification and travel documentation ready. Being prepared to make a full and accurate declaration, including the amount in Canadian dollars of goods you are bringing with you, will help get you on your way as quickly as possible.

Example of Security Inadmissibility to Canada

Code of Removal Order Under Grounds of

A34 Security

Espionage, subversion, violence or terrorism, membership in an organization involved in any of these in the past, present or future that would be contrary to Canada's interests. Being a danger to Canada, engaging in acts of violence that would or might endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada.

Border Security

Screening People at the Border

The CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) screens all visitors, immigrants and refugee claimants to keep Canada safe and secure. Inadmissible persons such as criminals or persons considered security risks are not allowed to enter or remain in Canada.

They work with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), as well as foreign and Canadian law enforcement agencies to screen all individuals entering Canada.

Background Checks

CBSA performs background checks on anyone 18 years of age or over who:

  • Applies for immigration or
  • Claims refugee status after coming to Canada.

Background checks may also be carried out on people who apply to come to Canada temporarily.

Danger Opinions

Danger opinions allow the CBSA to remove individuals who are a danger to Canada. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration issues a danger opinion against any person that is believed to be a danger to the Canadian public or to Canada’s security.

A person will only be removed if the danger outweighs the risk that person faces in returning to the country where he or she fled persecution. The CIC reviews each person’s history to determine the danger compared to the risk.

Danger opinions can be issued against Convention refugees facing removal and against a person claiming protection. A refugee claimant issued a danger opinion is ineligible for referral for refugee protection through the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Irregular Migration

Irregular migrants are individuals who migrate without any legal status, including people entering the country as victims of human-smuggling and trafficking. The CBSA uses intelligence to prevent irregular migration, identify high-risk travellers and facilitate the movement of legitimate visitors, refugees and immigrants.

The CBSA works with government, law-enforcement, immigration and other partners overseas to combat irregular migration.

Document Integrity

The CBSA authenticates and verifies the integrity of travel documents to detect and prevent fraud at the border.

Arriving to Canada by Air

Whether you are returning home or visiting, you will follow the same straightforward process to enter Canada:

First CBSA Checkpoint

When you arrive at the terminal, follow the signs to the first Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) checkpoint—referred to as Primary Inspection—where a border services officer will examine your Declaration Card, identification and other travel documents.

When you are directed to a booth, you may be asked a series of questions to determine your immigration status, the nature of any goods you are bringing with you, your duty-free allowance and personal exemption entitlements.

If you have anything to declare, including purchases and food, plants, animals and/or related products of any kind, make sure to inform the officer. Goods not properly declared that are restricted or prohibited in Canada can, under the law, be subject to seizure.

Newcomer/Coming to Canada to Study or Work

If you are a newcomer to Canada, coming to study or work in Canada, further documentation may be required. The officer will help guide you through this process and can assist with language services if required.

Baggage and Second CBSA Checkpoint

Now that you have cleared Primary Inspection, proceed to the baggage claim area. If required, you can pay duty and taxes at most major airports while waiting for your luggage.

Once you have picked up your luggage, proceed to the next CBSA checkpoint, where you will show the officer your Declaration Card and your receipt if you paid duty and taxes.

The officer may direct you to our secondary inspection area. You can expect to be asked for detailed information about your travels and may be asked to present your luggage and goods for examination.

This is a normal part of the travel process. Your cooperation is appreciated and helps us ensure the safety of Canada, its economy and its residents by verifying your declaration.

If you have any questions, you can ask to speak with a CBSA Superintendent at any time.

You may occasionally find yourself going through a more detailed inspection. In some cases, this simply means that you may have to complete a form. In other cases, the border services officer will need to identify the goods you are bringing into the country or examine your luggage.

Border services officers are legally entitled to examine your luggage as part of their responsibility to protect Canada’s safety, economy and environment. You are responsible for opening, unpacking and repacking your luggage.

By making your goods easily accessible for inspection and having your receipts handy, you will be helping the CBSA to help you. It is a good idea to keep all your receipts for accommodations and purchases, and for any repairs done to, or parts bought for, your vehicle. The border services officer may ask to see them as evidence of the length of your stay and of the value of the goods or repairs.

Restricted and Prohibited Goods

The importation of certain goods is restricted or prohibited in Canada. To avoid the possibility of penalties, including seizure or prosecution, make sure you have the information you require before attempting to import items into Canada.

The following are some examples of restricted or prohibited goods:

  • Firearms and weapons: You must declare all weapons and firearms at the CBSA port of entry when you enter Canada.
  • Food, plants, animals and related products: All food, plants, animals, and related products must be declared. Food can carry disease, such as E. coli. Plants and plant products can carry invasive alien species, such as the Asian Long-Horned Beetle. Animals and animal products can carry diseases, such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease.  
  • Explosives, fireworks and ammunition: You must have written authorization and import permits to bring explosives, fireworks and certain types of ammunition into Canada.
  • Vehicles: Vehicles include any kind of pleasure vehicles such as passenger cars, pickup trucks, snowmobiles and motor homes, as long as you use them for non-commercial purposes. There are many requirements that apply to the importation of vehicles.
  • Consumer products: The importation of certain consumer products that could pose a danger to the public (e.g., baby walkers, jequirity beans that are often found in art or bead work) is prohibited. Canadian residents should be aware of consumer products that have safety requirements in Canada. Many of these safety requirements are stricter than requirements of other countries.

Why Legal Help For Entering Canada Is Important

It can be a tiresome and tricky process if you do not receive help from a legal team before you arrive in Canada. There are steps or items you may miss or forget if you are not careful, and that could result in getting denied entry into Canada and having to return to the country you originally came from. This means you could waste time and money that you don’t have to spare. In order to take advantage of this great opportunity, individuals should enlist the help of a legal professional who knows how to prepare you for the best chance to get past border security and arrive in Canada.

Why Hire Us to Assist Your Family Sponsorship Case?

With over 15 years of experience specializing in helping people from across the world, we know what border security officers are looking for when immigrants are arriving in Canada. We have helped thousands of individuals to successfully get to Canada with the right papers and documents, and we can help you too!

Call Us Today

The first step towards moving to Canada is to get an assessment of your specific situation. Call us today at 1.866.449.5904 for an assessment to see if you are eligible to move to Canada, or fill out our online assessment form.