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Canada and U.S. agree to reduce border congestion for travelers


The Governments of Canada and the United States signed an pre-clearance agreement today designed to benefit travelers and trade by reducing congestion and increasing efficiency at the border.

“After years of hard work and negotiations, today we have this agreement that will help facilitate the legitimate trade and travel that keeps our economy thriving as we maintain utmost vigilance to the security of our borders,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

This new agreement will allow for the consideration of requests for new pre-clearance locations across all modes of transport, including land, rail, and sea. Currently, pre-clearance only exists for air travel.

Pre-clearance is the process by which customs 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. Under such circumstances, U.S. Customs and Border Protection retain the authority to inspect passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage after arriving in the United States. CBP officers currently conduct pre-clearance operations at eight Canadian airports: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

According to Steven Blaney, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness: “This historic new agreement builds on decades of successful pre-clearance 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.”

This agreement also enables exploration of co-location at small and remote ports and provide updates to the Air Pre-clearance Agreement to better reflect the post 9/11 operating environment, including policies and tools utilized at domestic ports of entry.

The agreement also enable Canada to request that the United States regularize existing U.S. immigration pre-inspection sites, for example at cruise, rail and ferry terminals.

This new agreement reaffirms the United States and Canada’s commitment to enhancing security while facilitating lawful travel and trade, and supersedes the existing U.S.-Canada Air Pre-clearance agreement signed in 2001.

According to both governments, this agreement achieves a key component of the joint “Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan“. In 2011, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper released the plan, which laid out a shared vision of both countries working together to address threats at the earliest point possible while facilitating the legitimate movement of people, goods and services across the northern border.

The 2011 plan integrates with popular trusted traveler programs that incorporate biometrics. Biometrics Research Group Inc., publisher of BiometricUpdate.com, examined some of these programs in a report published in 2013.

The report, entitled “Biometrics and Homeland Security“, provides a brief overview of the spending and programs that the U.S. Government is engaged in surrounding homeland security initiatives and biometrics including: an introduction to homeland security, DHS reorganization, US homeland security spending, use of biometrics, trusted traveler programs and international and departmental biometrics data sharing.

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