Can IRCC officers access to my travel information?
Since 2019 IRCC officers have been able to obtain entry and exit information on travellers through the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) system. The system, known as Entry/Exit Program, is a joint initiative between Canada and the United States, based on the Beyond the Border Action Plan. Moreover, the system has allowed IRCC officers to validate the presence of travellers in and out of Canada. Through Entry/Exit tab in the Global Case Management System (GCMS) IRCC officers can query the CBSA to verify:
- residency requirements in support of applications for grants of citizenship (CIT) or permanent resident cards,
- if a temporary residence applicant may have previously overstayed their allowable period of admission in Canada,
- that sponsors are residing in Canada,
- the residency of spouses and partners under the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class,
- whether or not a refugee claimant entered Canada using their travel documents.
In addition, IRCC can query information to assist in an investigation of an individual’s entitlement to a Canadian travel document. Furthermore, it can also ask information to support investigations of possible fraud in relation to immigration, citizenship, and passport/travel document programs. Let’s review how this system was started and how it works.
- How does the system work?
- Who can access the traveller information?
- How IRCC uses Entry/Exit data
- Travellers’ rights
Background: Entry/Exit Program
As I mentioned at the beginning, the program was a joint initiative between Canada and the U.S. to share data at the land border. The program’s purpose was to establish a coordinated information system to facilitate the exchange of travellers’ biographic information. For example:
- given and family names,
- date of birth,
- country of birth,
- country of citizenship, and more.
Furthermore, with the passing of Bill C-21, an Act to amend the Customs Act, the program started to accumulate data on all travellers by land (including Canadian and U.S. citizens) as of July 11, 2019. Of course, the information was collected upon entry at the common land border.
However, on June 25, 2020, regulations for the air mode came into force, allowing the CBSA to begin collecting pre-departure exit information and exit records directly from commercial air carriers. This means that as of June 2020 the information has been available for entries and exits by land and air. However, it is not yet available for marine and rail travel to Canada.
Also, please be aware that under the IRCC–CBSA memorandum of understanding (MOU) the institutions don’t need the client’s consent in order to query traveller entry and exit information. Moreover, IRCC officers are not allowed to disclose entry and exit information unless it is necessary to administer the IRPA and is covered under an information-sharing agreement.
How does the system work?
It is very simple! IRCC officers perform an E/E query through GCMS, then they receive the results automatically. Moreover, it just take between 30 seconds to 2 minutes to transmit the information from CBSA’s systems to IRCC’s. This is because as soon as CBSA enters the data into their systems, the information immediately becomes available. Furthermore, according to IRCC, it is also possible to obtain data and/or run reports on E/E in two ways:
- submit a request to OPPB
- reports can be generated using GCMS Answers or Cognos. Of course, this option is only available to authorized GCMS users)
Who can access the traveller information?
Only roles that allow a user to render a decision on an application in GCMS have access to the “Entry/Exit” tab. Check the following table.
|GCMS users||Authorized CBSA employees|
How does IRCC use information on immigration applications?
– Temporary residence applications
IRCC can request Entry/Exit information for the following application types:
- temporary resident visas and permits
- visitor records
- work permits and work permit extensions
- study permits and study permit extensions
- also, electronic travel authorizations (eTAs)
The Entry/Exit data can be used to check whether a foreign national has previously exceeded their authorized period of stay in Canada. The government calls this “overstay monitoring.” It begins when a traveller enters Canada and ends upon their exit. Moreover, if the applicant has overstayed their visit, an “overstay indicator” will appear as a checked box in the GCMS once queried.
Importantly, IRCC expects overstay indicators for temporary residents will begin appearing in Entry/Exit search results in November 2022, once a sufficient number of air carriers are on-boarded.
<<Also read: Deep Dive in the Use of AI for Immigration Processing>>
– Permanent residence applications
Entry/Exit information is available to IRCC for the following permanent residence application types:
- permanent resident cards and travel documents
- overseas refugees, also
- family class sponsorships
For this type of applications, the data can be used to outline the periods of time spent in and outside Canada, and will allow IRCC to see if residence has been maintained. In addition to residency requirements, IRCC may make an Entry/Exit query to investigate misrepresentation, or revocation of Canadian documents. Further, in terms of family sponsorship applications, Entry/Exit data can be used to determine if a sponsor is residing in Canada.
– Citizenship applications
Entry/Exit data can be used in citizenship applications to:
- verify compliance with physical presence requirements for grants of citizenship;
- assist in the verification of other requirements, such as, flagging of potential loss of permanent resident status, the need for applicants to submit foreign police certificates, or misrepresentation;
- verify compliance with physical presence requirements for resumption of citizenship; and
- assist in cases of revocation of Canadian citizenship.
Travellers have the right to…
Travellers can request a copy of their personal travel history through the Privacy Act. Furthermore, they can also ask for corrections if any of the information is incorrect. In addition, if a traveller has requested a correction to their passage information, IRCC officers are also notified of this correction and are able to re-query the CBSA’s database to obtain the most up-to-date information. For more information on corrections of personal information please visit the CBSA website.
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