Flagpoling – Canada Status at a Land Crossing

Coronavirus and Canada-US border restrictions: Flagpoling is considered non-essential travel, so you may not consider it for validating your COPR (permanent resident landing paper) or receive a work permit, a study permit or renewing your stay in Canada.


Flagpoling Basics CanadaLina is a Swiss citizen. She visited Canada two months ago. Luckily, Lina received a job offer from a Canadian employer. As a result, she wants to apply for a work permit. Lina wonders if she can go to a land crossing and receive her work permit there. She has heard about flagpoling but is not quite sure how it works.

Some people who are 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 qualify, 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 your intention is 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 issues 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?

To flagpole, you need to enter Canada through those land crossings that process immigration applications. 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 the 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 if you cross a major land crossing as they have plenty of resources such as a Minister Delegate and senior officers who are deeply familiar with the immigration law

Flagpoling issues

CBSA or Canada Border Services Agency and IRCC or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada are two parallel Canadian agencies in the field of immigration. Generally, CBSA is responsible for the enforcement of the immigration law, and IRCC is responsible for processing applications and making policies. While CBSA has limited responsibility in the issuance of status, they prefer to leave this job to IRCC. Consequently, CBSA does not like people to approach the border for processing 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 in 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
  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only


CBSA may expand these limitations at any time.

I will publish a series of articles about flagpoling soon. The purpose of the upcoming articles is to explain different options of flagpoling. Sign up to our newsletter. We will inform you about our latest articles via our newsletter.

If you wish to visit or move to Canada, please fill out our free assessment form. We will review the form for free, but we will contact you only if we find an opportunity for you. Alternatively, you may book a consultation session. Consultation sessions are not free, but you will receive formal advice from a licenced practitioner.

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


This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not give legal advice. Do not rely on it as legal advice or immigration advice. We cannot be held responsible for the content of these articles. If you have specific legal questions, you must consult a lawyer. If you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment. All the characters in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Any resemblance in names, dates, and places (whether individuals, organizations, regions, or countries) is coincidental.

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Al Parsai

Al Parsai is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) in Toronto, Canada. He also teaches the official immigration consulting courses at Ashton College in Vancouver, Canada. Al who holds a Masters degree from Yorkville University is a member of ICCRC and CAPIC organizations. Al, the CEO of Parsai Immigration Services, has represented hundreds of applicants from more than 30 countries to the immigration authorities since January 2011.