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CBSA Adjusts Flagpoling Services at 12 Border Crossings

As of May 30, 2024, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has decided to curtail flagpoling, a process that allows temporary residents to bypass bureaucratic wait times and receive same-day immigration services at Canada-U.S. border crossings. 


The CBSA announced to reduce the number of days and hours each week when flagpoling services will be available at 12 ports of entry in Quebec, southern Ontario, and the Pacific region.


Rebecca Purdy, a senior spokesperson for the CBSA, stated that while immigration services will remain available at all ports of entry, the agency is limiting hours at these 12 border crossings due to “high volumes of flagpolers.”


Understanding Flagpoling

Flagpoling is when temporary residents of Canada leave the country and immediately re-enter within 24 hours to receive same-day immigration services at the border, according to the CBSA. This service is not unique to Canada but is available in other countries as well.


“The flagpoling term comes from literally swinging around the flagpole,” said Ravi Jain, founder of Jain Immigration Law and past co-president of the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association.


Essentially, when flagpoling, a person exits Canada and reports to U.S. border officials, indicating that they intend to return to Canada and not remain in the United States, Jain explained. Upon reaching the Canadian point of entry, CBSA can then consider the person’s application for the immigration service they are seeking.


Eligibility for Flagpoling

Anyone with a valid visa or status in Canada can flagpole. A U.S. visa is not necessarily required, but there could be “major implications down the road” if the American border officials refuse entry into the U.S. for the purpose of flagpoling.


Typically, people are looking for a post-graduate work permit, the International Mobility Program permit, an open work permit, or work permits based on treaties. However, more and more people are looking for flagpoling due to the delays in the government portal.


As of May 28, the processing time for a temporary resident to obtain a work permit from inside Canada was 93 days, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) website. In 2023, 61,561 used this service, which represented a 90 per cent jump from 2022 when 32,394 people flagpoled at the U.S.-Canada borders. In 2021, flagpoling dipped by 34 per cent as non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada border was restricted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


Accessing Flagpoling Services

Newcomers can still access flagpoling services at all Points of Entry (POEs). However, the following locations feature reduced hours of service:

Quebec Region
  • Armstrong: Monday-Thursday from 12 pm to 7 pm
  • Saint Armand/Phillipsburg: Monday-Thursday from 9 am to 3 pm
  • Saint Bernard de Lacolle: Monday-Thursday from 12 pm to 7 pm
  • Stanstead Route 55: Monday-Thursday from 8 am to 5 pm
Southern Ontario Region
  • Fort Erie (Peace Bridge): Tuesday-Thursday from 8 am to 12 am
  • Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge: Tuesday-Thursday from 8 am to 12 am
  • Queenston-Lewiston Bridge: Tuesday-Thursday from 8 am to 12 am
Pacific Region
  • Abbotsford-Huntington: Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm
  • Aldergrove: Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm
  • Boundary Bar: Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm
  • Douglas: Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm
  • Pacific Highway: Monday-Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm


Note: At the time of writing, CBSA has threatened to enter a strike following wage disputes between the border authorities and the federal Canadian government. This may further impact flagpoling services for the duration of these negotiations.


Potential Risks of Flagpoling

There are some potential risks to flagpoling, including refusal of re-entry into Canada.


“If you decide to come to a port of entry for immigration services, you may find long line-ups, and your turn may not come before the end of service hours,” the CBSA warns on its website.


Instead, the agency highly recommends people use IRCC’s online services. CBSA’s Purdy highlighted thattemporary residents do not need to flagpole to obtain immigration services.

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