Immigration update: Canada increases limitations on flagpoling

5 minute read
09 July 2024

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Canada has placed limitations on the ability of some foreign nationals to seek work permits at ports of entry ("POEs"). This will limit processing options for some foreign nationals.



Flagpoling occurs when foreign nationals who are in Canada as temporary residents exit Canada and then re-enter within 24 hours to seek immigration services from CBSA at a POE. This includes instances at land POEs where foreign nationals get "bounced back" from the U.S. side in order to request a new work permit from CBSA upon re-entry to Canada.

CBSA has long sought to dissuade foreign nationals from flagpoling, despite it being allowed under immigration legislation. Given the long processing times for work permit changes or renewals filed inside Canada, foreign nationals often feel that they have no choice but to try it, especially where they are changing employers and have a start date deadline.

IRCC and CBSA have recently announced changes to limit flagpoling.

1. Limiting POE hours for flagpoling

CBSA has expanded the number of POEs that limit hours during which flagpoling immigration services may be provided.

Limitations have been in place for some time at POEs along the Niagara/New York POEs (Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and Queenston) and along the Québec border at POEs south of Montreal.

Five POEs in the Pacific region have been added: Abbotsford-Huntingdon, Aldergrove, Boundary Bay, Douglas and Pacific Highway.

The list of POEs that limit flagpoling requests can be viewed here.

To be able to attend at the Québec region POEs covered by the policy, a foreign national first book an appointment at 514-240-5679, and then attend at the appointment time. This is a new requirement as of July 4, 2024. It remains to be seen whether other POEs start requiring pre-booked appointments.

Foreign nationals trying to flagpole at the other listed POEs must attend on the days and within the times set out in the CBSA policy. But CBSA advises that there is no guarantee that the foreign national will be dealt with or processed. Due to high demand and limited space at POEs, CBSA often cannot process everyone trying to flagpole.

Foreign nationals with valid temporary status in Canada can usually apply online for an employer-specific work permit. This includes visitors under a special public policy that allows this up to February 28, 2025. IRCC also has a policy that grants interim work authorization to eligible applicants who are applying online to change employers or to change occupations with their current employer. The interim work authorization allows the foreign national to begin working in the new position while their application to change their work permit is being processed.

2. Ending flagpoling for PGWP applicants

As of June 21, 2024, foreign students can no longer apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit ("PGWP") at a POE upon entering Canada. About 20 per cent of flagpoling applications involved PGWP requests. More information is here: IRCC News Release ending PGWP flagpoling.

Therefore, foreign students in Canada must apply online for a PGWP. In most situations, they can start working full-time once the PGWP application is uploaded. Therefore, employers usually do not have to wait for the actual PGWP document to be in hand before starting to employ the foreign national, as long as proof of eligibility to start work is provided.

IRCC provides a list of documents that PGWP applicants should show employers to prove they can start work. However, employers are advised to reach out to one of our immigration professionals to confirm proper employment authorization before a hiring is finalized.

Conclusion

Employers and foreign nationals in Canada contemplating work permit options should obtain legal advice before considering flagpoling at a POE. With advanced planning, there are usually other options that avoid the risks associated with flagpoling. Employers should also monitor future changes to CBSA's limitations on flagpoling, as the trend is to make it more difficult to obtain immigration services at the border.

Please contact a member of the Gowling WLG immigration team if you require further information or advice on any immigration or work permit matters.


NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.

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