Crossing the border is rarely a simple act. In the post-9/11 world, security checks have increased and each foreign national faces additional scrutiny from Immigration Officers. In Canada, the border security is the responsibility of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), under the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. They work closely with other police agencies and they have access to international databases to screen everyone, and everything, that goes through a border. When CBSA is dealing with a Permanent Resident of Canada, a Canadian Citizen or an immigration application, they may refer the case to their counterparts at Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly known as CIC). If you are denied entry to Canada, it may be due to a negative determination by a CBSA Officer or an IRCC Officer. What can you do?
The first question to deal with is where you are trying to enter. Issues vary between entering at land borders, ports and airports.
One of the common situations that we face is when Permanent Residents who are trying to fly back to Canada without a valid PR Card. The airline will not let them board their flight back to Canada without a valid travel document. There are a number of risks in these situations. One of my first concerns is that if the PR is anxious to return, they may insist on boarding the flight and then, when they enter Canada, they may request temporary status. This puts their Permanent Resident status at risk and we do not advise this option.
When a PR is flying back to Canada without a valid PR Card, they have two (2) main options – neither option is cheap or easy. The first option is to go to the nearest Canadian Consulate, Embassy or High Commission. Canada has hundreds of offices peppered around the world in every continent, except Antarctica. I have never had a client call who could not travel to a Canadian office within their jurisdiction.
Once the PR reaches the consulate, they may apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document “PRTD”. The government fee for the document is $50 and processing times vary from 1 hour to 2 months. We had one case where the printer at the Canadian office was broken and they had to order a new printer before they could issue new travel documents. In general, the Officers who work in these offices are very supportive and they will help any Permanent Resident who is courteous and professional.
The second option, for some, is to fly to the United States and enter Canada at a land border. For those clients who are at the airport and they do not want to leave the airport, this may be an option. NOTE: this option is only available to individuals and/ or families who are able to enter the United States and they do not have other issues with American authorities. We also advise our clients that we do not practice US immigration law and, therefore, if there are any issues with US authorities, we would refer the matter to an American colleague.
Being denied entry can be a stressful experience. Airline staff are not government officials and their knowledge of Canadian immigration law is limited. If you or your family members are in a situation where you are denied entry, we recommend that you call a lawyer whom you trust to help you properly navigate the system.