Flagpoling – Canada Status at a Land Crossing

Coronavirus travel restrictions: CBSA has resumed flagpoling.  However, there is still a chance they do not process your application for validating your COPR (permanent resident landing paper) or receive a work permit, a study permit or renewing your stay in Canada. Consequently, at this stage, beware of potential complications at the port of entry.

Some people inside Canada may need to renew or change their status. However, travelling outside Canada is costly. They may also not qualify to apply from inside Canada. Even if they are eligible, the process takes a very long time. Flagpoling is a potential solution to this problem.

What is flagpoling?

Flagpoling means taking the following steps:

  • You collect all the necessary documents, for example:
  • You travel to a land crossing that processes immigration applications
  • Upon entry to the United States, you inform the officer your intention is not to enter the US but to go through flagpoling
  • Depending on your nationality, they deny your entry to the US and pass you a paper that explains you tried to enter their country.
  • You return to Canada and tell you to intend to update your status
  • The officer will send you to the CBSA office
  • A CBSA officer reviews your documents

If the officer believes you hold all necessary documents and meet all the required requirements, issue you the new status. Here are some examples of flagpoling reasons:

Of course, the devil is in the details. Make sure that you qualify for flagpoling before taking action.

Where can someone flagpole?

You must enter Canada through those land crossings that process immigration applications to a flagpole. Here is a list of land crossings between Canada and the United States.

Consider the following:

  • The previous list is subject to change. Visit the CBSA website for an up-to-date list.
  • Some land crossings may offer limited services or limited hours of operation. Consequently, contact them or refer to reliable sources before approaching them.
  • It is in your best interest to cross a significant land crossing as they have plenty of resources, such as a Minister Delegate and senior officers. They are deeply familiar with immigration law.

Flagpoling issues

CBSA or Canada Border Services Agency and IRCC or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada are two parallel Canadian agencies in immigration. Generally, CBSA enforces the immigration law, and IRCC is responsible for processing applications and making policies. While CBSA has limited responsibility in issuing status, they prefer to leave this job to IRCC. Consequently, CBSA does not like people to approach the border to process their applications. Therefore, while flagpoling, you could face any of the following issues:

  • There is no officer to process your request.
  • The land crossing accepts applications on certain days of the week or particular hours of the day.
  • They reach their daily quota and won’t take more applications
  • You do not meet the requirements of the application or do not hold all the necessary documents
  • They find you inadmissible to Canada

In any of these situations, the applicant may face any of the following problems:

  • You need to come back another day and go through the same process
  • The officer advises you to apply online or by paper after entering Canada
  • The officer issues a removal order for you
  • In rare cases, you may even face detention

Limited hours of operation

CBSA has imposed the following limitations since 2018:

Port of Entry (Land Crossing) Which applications When service is available
  • Quebec – St-Armand/Philipsburg
  • Quebec –  St-Bernard-de-Lacolle
  • Monday to Thursday, from 12:00 p.m to 7:00 p.m
  • Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m
  • Ontario – Peace Bridge
  • Ontario – Queenston-Lewiston Bridge
  • Ontario – Rainbow Bridge
  • Study permit
  • Work permit
  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only


CBSA may expand these limitations at any time.

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Al Parsai, MA, DTM, RCIC
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada

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Al Parsai

Al Parsai is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (class L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) in Toronto, Canada. He is an adjunct professor at Queen's University Law School and Ashton College. Al, who holds a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University, is a member of CICC and CAPIC organizations. Al, the CEO of Parsai Immigration Services, has represented thousands of applicants from more than 50 countries to the immigration authorities since January 2011.

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