The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) recently announced that it was proposing changes to its Trusted Traveller Programs (TTPs), which include CANPASS, Free and Secure Trade (FAST) and NEXUS. In furtherance of this proposal, CBSA intends to amend the Presentation of Persons (2003) Regulations (the "regulations"), which were implemented under the Canadian Customs Act.
Among other things, CBSA is proposing significant changes to the eligibility criteria. The current regulations only require applicants to be of "good moral character." Unfortunately, this term is not defined and it has sometimes resulted in inconsistent adjudications.
CBSA now wishes to replace the term "good moral character" with more specific eligibility criteria. Under the proposed rules, the following grounds (among others) would render an applicant ineligible to seek a NEXUS card:
- Failing to provide complete personal information, supporting documents and/or attend interviews (if required) with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will render an applicant ineligible.
- Unless the applicant has received a record suspension or pardon, one summary conviction (or two summary convictions arising out of a single occurrence) will render an applicant ineligible for 10 years, beginning after the end of the imposed sentence. In addition, an indictable offence (or multiple convictions, other than two summary convictions arising out of a single occurrence) will result in a lifetime ban. Finally, any convictions in relation to the following border enforcement priorities can result in a lifetime ban: (i) drugs and chemical precursors, obscenity and hate propaganda, endangered species, terrorism, kidnapping, child pornography or trafficking in persons/human smuggling; (ii) the importation, exportation or trafficking of alcohol and tobacco, currency, firearms and weapons; or (iii) the exportation of items on the Export Control List. All foreign convictions will be assessed by determining its Canadian equivalent under the Canadian Criminal Code.
- In the case of pending criminal charges (which would render the applicant ineligible if a conviction resulted) and any outstanding criminal warrants relating to such offenses, an applicant will be ineligible until a court decision is made on the charge(s)/warrant(s) or the warrant(s) have expired.
- Violations of program legislation (such as legislation and regulations administered or enforced by CBSA) can result in ineligibility. For example, multiple minor seizures would result in a ten-year ban and any contraventions in relation to the border enforcement priorities listed above would result in a lifetime ban.
- Where a person is required (i.e. by court order) to surrender their travel documents (such as a passport under the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act), this person will also become ineligible for a NEXUS or FAST authorization (or their existing authorization may be suspended).
It should be mentioned that, although these proposed amendments may be significant for CANPASS or FAST participants, their effect on NEXUS participants may be less so. This is because NEXUS is a joint initiative of the United States and Canada. As a result, failure to satisfy the eligibility criteria of either country renders an applicant ineligible for NEXUS.
The NEXUS eligibility criteria used by United States Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) are already stricter in many ways than CBSA's proposed eligibility criteria. For example, CBSA's proposed criteria still allow an applicant who has been convicted of a criminal offence to remain eligible if they have received a Canadian Pardon or Record Suspension. However, USCBP does not recognize a Canadian Pardon or Record Suspension when considering an applicant's eligibility to participate in NEXUS.
The CBSA announcement states that it plans on updating its internal policies to reflect these amendments soon, long before the regulations are formally amended.
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The biggest change to cross-border shopping is the increased allowances to duty-free purchases. Canadian travellers outside the country for more than 24 hours can now bring in up to $200 in goods. The previous limit was capped at $50. Photo courtesy of: Flickr/ blmurch
As of June 1, Canadians who find themselves outside of the border for 48 hours or longer will have their allowance double from $400 to $800. The limit for travellers outside of the country for more than seven days has also changed. Their limit has increased by $50 from $750 to $800.
For those looking to capitalize on the new duty-free rules, here's some advice: plan accordingly as the new rules are still time sensitive. For example, Canadians can't claim duty-free status on any goods if their trip less than 24 hours. Also, the date you left Canada doesn't count towards your trip length, but the day you return can.
The duty-free status still only applies if your purchases are for personal use. That means it can be for your house, a souvenir, or anything else for your own personal enjoyment. However, if it's anything for commercial use, expect to pay full duties. Also, while you can bring back gifts for other people under your duty-free allowance, that allowance can't be shared with other people.
The rules regarding alcohol purchases outside of Canada still hold true, despite the increased in allowance. For example, you can only claim duty-free status if your trip is 48 hours or longer in length. Also worth noting is that only one of the following items can count towards your allowance: 1.14 L (40 oz.) of liquor; OR 1.5 L of wine; OR 24 X 355 ml (12 oz.) containers of beer.
Shoppers can expect to rake in many goods across the border with Canada's new rules, but certain items are still off limits. For example, certain fruits, meats and vegetables are prohibited from entering Canada as are weapons such as guns, mace, and pepper spray -- something worth noting if you find yourself at the local gun show.
Much like alcohol, the rules to tobacco are still in effect. Canadians need to be outside of the country for at least 48 hours but can bring in any of the following as part of their duty-free purchase: 200 cigarettes; 50 cigars or cigarillos; 200 tobacco sticks; and 200 g (7 oz.) of manufactured tobacco.
Now that the purchases have been made, all that's left is to get them back into Canada and that's where receipts come into play. Canadian Border Services Agency workers may ask for proof of any purchase and having them on hand may be the difference maker between a five-minute process and a five-hour delay. Receipts can also help verify how long your trip was based on the date of your purchases.
Canadians can now make more purchases over the border but they still need to be sure that they can bring everything back. That's because the CBSA still limits the duty-free status to goods on your possession when returning. There is one exception to this rule though: travellers gone longer than seven days can have the duty-free status apply to their goods delivered to them via mail, courier, or by a delivery agency.
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