The term flagpoling refers to a process where a foreign national goes to the border, leaves Canada heading towards the United States, but then turns around to re-enter Canada and make an application for temporary status at the Port of Entry. This is commonly done by driving to your nearest border crossing.
While flagpoling is completely legal, it is not guaranteed that just because you go to the border, you will be processed and issued the permit that you desire. CBSA has been trying to limit flagpoling because it places an additional strain on border services. Some crossings, such as ones at Peace Bridge, Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, and Rainbow Bridge have implemented service days and hours for individuals trying to flagpole to lessen the amount of people trying to do so during peak hours.
Foreign nationals have been leaning towards flagpoling because it can be a quicker alternative than waiting for an application to be processed. The normal process is to apply online, but with some applications taking months to get processed, some people simply don’t have this time and if they go to the border, there is a chance they will get processed immediately.
Flagpoling does not come without risks however. There is the possibility that when you go, there is a shortage of officers available to process your request. They could also simply refuse to take your application as well. Perhaps you do not meet all of the requirements, or you do not hold all of the necessary documents. They could also find you inadmissible to Canada. Should something go wrong with your flagpoling attempt, at best you could be let back into Canada and told to apply online. However, you could also be issued removal orders and told to leave the country as soon as possible.
Who can apply at the Port of Entry?
You can apply at the Port of Entry if you are:
- Visa exempt and your job falls within the International Mobility Program (not required to obtain an LMIA);
- Visa exempt and your job falls within the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (and you have a positive LMIA);
- Visa exempt and you want to confirm your permanent resident status document;
- You are a national or permanent resident of the United States, Greenland, or Saint-Pierre and Miquelon;
- This applies to both work and study permits!
- You are not working as a live-in caregiver or as a seasonal agricultural worker.
Can I get an extension via flagpoling?
IRCC recommends that for foreign nationals who hold a valid permit, who wish to change their conditions, or to renew their permits, they should do so inside Canada instead of at the border. We have had clients who when talking to the border officer, were told to re-enter Canada and apply to extend their work permit online as there are still some days of validity left on their work permit.
In situations where you did apply for an extension while in Canada, but needed to travel before a decision was received, a border officer may use their discretion to either issue a new work permit upon re-entry, or they could request that you enter Canada and simply wait for your application to finish processing.
What if I lost my status?
In situations where you have lost your temporary resident status, the law requires that you leave the country. However, if you are within 90 days of your status expiring, you can apply for a restoration of status to restore your status to what it was previously before expiry.
If you are an individual who is currently waiting for a restoration of status, it is not recommended that you go to the border to flagpole your application. IRCC has made it clear in their policies that restoration of status cannot be granted at the port of entry. If a foreign national leaves Canada, then they will be deemed as seeking a new entry upon their return, and the previous non-compliance with imposed conditions may make them inadmissible to Canada.
In the end however, the best thing you can do is to apply for your permits and extensions well in advance so that you can avoid any issues that come with falling out of status. If you are considering flagpoling and want to know more about the process, please do not hesitate to contact us at (204) 944-8889 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your consultation for more information!