A new agreement that reaffirms the United States and Canada’s commitment to enhancing security while facilitating lawful travel and trade that’s consistent with the initiatives outlined in the 2011 Beyond the Border Action Plan has been signed by Department of Homeland Secretary (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson and Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney.
Superseding the existing US-Canada Air Preclearance agreement which was signed in 2001, the new Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport Preclearance Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada will, among other things, provide updates to the Air Preclearance Agreement to better reflect the post 9/11 operating environment, including policies and tools utilized at domestic ports of entry, and enable Canada to request that the United States regularize existing US immigration pre-inspection sites – for example at cruise, rail and ferry terminals in British Columbia.
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 United States before they leave a foreign port. CBP officers do, however, retain the authority to inspect passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage after arriving in the United States. CBP officers currently conduct preclearance operations at eight Canadian airports: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
“After years of hard work and negotiations, today we have one of the most significant, visible, and anticipated products of the Beyond the Border initiative – a major achievement that will produce significant benefits for the United States and Canada,” Johnson said in a statement. “This agreement will help facilitate the legitimate trade and travel that keeps our economy thriving as we maintain utmost vigilance to the security of our borders. We remain committed to our deep partnership with Canada, a true ally, neighbor and friend of the United States.”
“Our Government’s top priority remains creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians,” Blaney said, noting that, “This historic new agreement builds on decades of successful preclearance operations in Canadian airports. It will enhance the security at our border and create jobs and growth in Canada by improving the flow of legitimate goods and people between our two countries.”
The preclearance agreement – allowing for the immigration, customs and agriculture inspections required for entry into either country to occur on foreign soil – will reduce congestion and delays at the border and increase efficiency and predictability in cross-border travel, tourism and transportation, according to DHS.
In addition, the new agreement provides officials of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) with the requisite authorities and tools to conduct their border security, facilitation and inspection processes in the other country.
The agreement also will:
- Allow for the consideration of requests for new preclearance locations across all modes;
- Enable exploration of co-location at small and remote ports, if desired;
- Enhance 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;
- Address officer privileges and immunities through 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; and
- Retain the civil and administrative prosecutorial jurisdictions for preclearance officers provided for in the current Air Preclearance Agreement.
“Given the groundbreaking nature of the agreement,” DHS said, “the United States and Canada must enact legislation for it to be implemented. The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act was introduced in the last Congress, and we are hopeful of its reintroduction in this Congress. Currently, the 2001 US-Canada Air Transport Preclearance Agreement continues to apply.”
DHS said, “The agreement achieves a key component of the Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan. On February 4, 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper released the Beyond the Border Declaration, articulating a shared vision in which our countries work together to address threats at the earliest point possible while facilitating the legitimate movement of people, goods and services across our shared border. The Action Plan outlines the specific steps our countries intend to take to achieve the security and economic competitiveness goals outlined in the Beyond the Border Declaration.