Canadian visitors to Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells and all of California may wish to take note of a new pilot program the US Department of Homeland Security and the Canada Border Services Agency is instituting for visitors from both countries crossing the US-Canada border. It’s a pilot program, which is not the official policy for US-Canada border crossings yet. But could easily become that (and probably will).
Which US-Canada Border Crossings is the Pilot Program Being Tested?
The following border crossings are where the program is initially being tested:
1) Pacific Highway, Blaine, Washington / Pacific Highway, British Columbia;
2) Peace Arch, Blaine, Washington / Douglas (Peace Arch), British Columbia;
3) Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, Lewiston, New York / Queenston-Lewiston Bridge,
4) Ontario; and Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, New York / Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, Ontario.
What Information Is Being Collected at These US-Canada Border Crossing Points?
It will include collecting and exchanging biographic information of third-country nationals, permanent residents of Canada, and lawful permanent residents of the U.S. There is no indication the collected information is all that different than the information collected prior to inception of the pilot program, Note also, the Canadian government is advancing plans to use biometrics for immigration and border security that would bring them in line with the U.S. and other countries.
So What’s So Different About What’s Going on in the Pilot Program?
The big new feature of the pilot program is the enhanced sharing of information between the US and Canada. It will now be easier for authorities on both sides of the border to identify those individuals who have overstayed their visa (which may have a detrimental effect on their ability to visit the other coutnry again any time soon). They can also more easily identify those individuals who have “removal orders” against them. In the past, the coordination between the two sides was so not so great.
What Does This Mean for Canadian Part-Time Coachella Valley Residents?
It’s hard to see any direct impact. Palm Springs Airport is not one of the locations for the pilot program. I think the take-away is that a greater sharing of information between Canada and the US is going to become the norm. Monitor your days spent in the US, do not overstay the 6 month a year period (if you’re here on a standard B-2 tourist Visa allowing you 6 months in the US a year). If you overstay, it’s clearly getting easier for authorities on both sides of the border to figure it out, and for Canadians it will easily lead to a suspension of your rights to visit the US in the future. Also, for the Canadians who have some US source income (you sell or rent a house; you conduct some business in the US), make sure to do your US taxes each year by June 15 (for the prior year). Failure to properly file and pay required taxes is another reason you will be suspended from returning to the US. In this increasing era of shared information, more and more each country will know of the other’s citizens who do not follow the rules.