New restrictions on ‘flagpoling’ at Peace Bridge amidst busy summer season

With the summer travel season just around the corner, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has announced new restrictions on the practice of ‘flagpoling’ at several Canada-U.S. border crossings, including the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie.

Flagpoling, a legal maneuver used by temporary residents to obtain same-day immigration services by briefly exiting and re-entering Canada, has seen increased usage and scrutiny, prompting these changes.

Effective May 30, the CBSA has limited the availability of flagpoling services at twelve ports of entry in Quebec, southern Ontario, and the Pacific region, which includes the Peace Bridge.

The move aims to manage the growing number of people seeking to speed up their immigration paperwork, thereby reducing the strain on border officers and improving overall efficiency.

The Peace Bridge in Fort Erie is now only offering flagpoling services on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to midnight.

The schedule adjustment is part of a broader effort to manage the heavy traffic expected during the peak summer months.

Flagpoling has become a popular method for temporary residents in Canada–such as those on work or study permits, or with visitor visas–to bypass long wait times for immigration services.

These individuals leave Canada and re-enter within 24 hours, allowing CBSA officers to process their applications for services like work permits, which can take up to 100 days if done through standard channels.

The increased use of flagpoling is evident from the numbers: 32,410 individuals have already utilized this service in 2024, and 61,561 did so in 2023. This represents a 90 per cent increase from 2022, when 32,394 people flagpoled at U.S.-Canada border crossings.

The practice dipped by 34 per cent in 2021 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

While flagpoling remains a viable option for some temporary residents, the CBSA advises that wait times can be extensive and encourages newcomers to utilize online services through IRCC where possible.

The new measures reflect a balancing act between maintaining efficient border operations and accommodating the needs of temporary residents seeking expedited immigration services.

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