Flagpoling – Canada Status at a Land Crossing

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. Please note that you must disclose US entry denial in future applications to Canada or other countries. Otherwise, you could face misrepresentation allegations.
  • You return to Canada and say you 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. Of course, you must visit their web pages regarding the processing dates and times and if they allow application submission.

British Columbia







New Brunswick

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. For example, click here to learn about some of the limitations.
  • It is in your best interest to cross a major 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 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 approaching 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 (e.g., click here).
  • 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

The last two scenarios are extremely rare. However, you deserve to know all the risks. I have a video that explains these matters in more detail.

Limited hours of operation

CBSA has imposed the following limitations since 2018. Please get in touch with CBSA for up-to-date information, as these limitations may have changed.

Port of Entry (Land Crossing)Which applicationsWhen service is available
  • Quebec – St-Armand/Philipsburg
  • Quebec –  St-Bernard-de-Lacolle
  • Monday to Thursday, from 9 am to 3 pm
  • Sunday, from 9 am to 3 pm
  • Ontario – Peace Bridge
  • (Forte Erie – Buffalo)
  • Ontario – Queenston-Lewiston Bridge
  • Ontario – Rainbow Bridge
  • (Niagara Falls)
  • Study permit
  • Work permit
  • Confirmation of permanent residence
  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 8 am to midnight
Source: CBSA

CBSA may expand these limitations at any time. Please visit their website or consult them for the latest updates.

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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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    This article provides information of a general nature only. Considering the fluid nature of the immigration world, it may no longer be current. Of course, the item does not give legal advice. Therefore, do not rely on it as legal advice or immigration advice. Consequently, no one could hold us accountable for the content of these articles. Of course, if you have specific legal questions, you must consult a lawyer. Alternatively, if you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment.

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    All the characters and locations in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Therefore, any resemblance in names, dates, and places is coincidental.

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    Al Parsai

    This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.