Guidelines for the access to, use, and disclosure of advance passenger information (API), passenger name record (PNR) data and pre-departure air exit information
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This memorandum has been revised to reflect changes made to the Privacy Act through an extension order, which now provides right of access to personal information to all individuals outside Canada as well. Paragraphs 45 and 46 were removed and replaced with a new paragraph 45.
This memorandum provides administrative guidelines on the access, use, and disclosure of API, PNR, IAPI and pre-departure Air Exit Information within the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as well as information regarding access and correction requests for this data. Air Exit data used as the exit record in passage history is not included in this D-memo. See here for more information on the Entry/Exit Initiative.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Passenger Information (Customs) Regulations
Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations
Protection of Passenger Information Regulations
Exit Information Regulations
Guidelines and general information
Advance passenger information (API)/air exit information (pre-departure)
1. API and pre-departure Air Exit Information comprises basic information about a traveller and the inbound flight they arrived in Canada upon or the outbound flight they left Canada upon.
2. For inbound flights, the CBSA requires all commercial air carriers to provide the prescribed information under subsection 107.1 of the Customs Act, as described in the PICR, and the prescribed information under Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) paragraph 148(1)(d), as described in section 269 of the IRPR.
3. Pursuant to paragraph 269(3)(a)-(b) of the IRPR and paragraph 7(1) of the PICR commercial air carriers are required to provide the prescribed API information to the CBSA at the following intervals:
- (a) For passengers: not later than the time of check-in and
- (b) For crew members: no later than one hour before the time of departure to Canada
4. For outbound flights, the CBSA also requires all commercial air carriers to provide the prescribed information under subsection 93(1) of the Customs Act, as described in the EIR.
5. Pursuant to paragraphs 11(1) and 11(2) of the EIR, commercial air carriers are required to provide the prescribed information to the CBSA for flights from Canada at the following intervals:
- (a) 72 hours before scheduled departure up to check-in, a subset of traveller information (if the information becomes known)
- (b) at check-in, if the information relates to a person, other than a crew member, expected to be on board the conveyance or
- (c) one hour before the conveyance’s scheduled time of departure, if the information relates to a crew member expected to be on board the conveyance
Passenger Name Record (PNR)
6. PNR is the air transport industry term for reservation and departure control records created by air carriers or their agents for each journey booked by or on behalf of any passenger. This data is used by air carriers for their own business purposes and depending upon the underlying transactions and systems responsible for the booking, may contain information including basic identity data about the traveller and their itinerary; contact, payment, and billing information; information about the travel agent that made the booking; check-in status; and seat and baggage information.
7. The inbound flights, the CBSA collects a limited set of PNR data relating to all passengers seeking entry into Canada. However, the CBSA does not require any carrier to collect or provide additional elements that they do not already collect for their own business purposes. PNR data is not collected for outbound flights.
8. Pursuant to paragraph 269(4) of the IRPR and paragraph 7(2) of the PICR, commercial air carriers are required to provide the prescribed PNR information at the time of departure of the flight from the last place persons boarded the conveyance before arriving in Canada. Only one submission of PNR information is required.
9. The requirement to provide PNR comes from subsection 5(e) of the PICR and paragraph 269(1)(e) of the IRPR.
Operational use of API and and pre-departure air exit information
10. API and Pre-departure Air Exit Information may only be used by the CBSA for purposes authorized under the Customs Act or the IRPR.
11. Per subsection 107(3) the Customs Act, where necessary, an official of the CBSA may use API and Pre-departure Air Exit Information:
- (a) for the purposes of administering or enforcing the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Excise Act, 2001, the Special Import Measures Act or Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act or
- (b) for the purposes of any Act or instrument made under it that the Governor in Council or Parliament authorizes the Minister, the Agency, the President, or an employee of the Agency to enforce
12. Per subsection 149(a) of IRPA, where necessary, an official of the CBSA may use API and pre-departure Air Exit Information for the purposes of exercising the powers or performing the duties and functions of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness under that Act, or to identify a person for whom a warrant of arrest has been issued in Canada. For greater certainty, this includes use for pre-arrival risk assessment purposes, and pre-departure validation that all travellers hold a prescribed travel document to enter Canada, or are exempt from that requirement.
Operational use of PNR data
13. The use of PNR is strictly limited in law. As set out in section 4 of the Protection of Passenger Information Regulations(PPIR), PNR data may be used by authorized CBSA personnel only for the following purposes:
- (a) to identify persons who have or may have committed a terrorism offence or a serious transnational crime or
- (b) to conduct trend analysis or develop risk indicators for the purpose of identifying persons who have or may have committed a terrorism offence or a serious transnational crime
14. Section 1 of the PPIR defines “terrorism offence” and “serious transnational crime” for the purpose of the permitted uses discussed above.
15. In brief, it defines “terrorism offence” as an act or omission committed "in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause" with the intention of intimidating the public “with regard to its security, including its economic security”, or “compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act." Activities recognized within this context include death and bodily harm with the use of violence; endangering a person’s life; risking the health and safety of the public; significant property damage; and interference or disruption of essential services, facilities or systems. This includes conspiracy, attempt, or threat to commit such an act or omission, or being an accessory after the fact or counselling in relation to any such act or omission. The definition also includes knowingly participating in or contributing to a terrorist group for any of the above purposes or providing material or financial support to such a group. Readers should refer to the PPIR for a complete definition of this term.
16. The PPIR defines “serious transnational crime” as an act or omission that constitutes an offence that is punishable in Canada by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least four years and is committed:
- (a) in more than one country
- (b) in only one country but a substantial part of its preparation, planning, direction or control takes place in another country
- (c) in only one country but an organized criminal group that engages in criminal activities in more than one country is implicated in the act or omission
- (d) in only one country but has substantial effects in another country or
- (e) in a country other than Canada but the offender intends to travel to or transit through Canada
17. Examples of serious transnational crimes include, but are not limited to:
- (a) narcotics smuggling
- (b) human smuggling
- (c) human trafficking and
- (d) importation or smuggling of child pornography
Access to PAXIS
18. API and PNR and pre-departure Air Exit Information are stored in the Passenger Information System (PAXIS). Pursuant to Treasury Board policy and the CBSA’s Directive for Access Control in Information Systems, access to PAXIS is restricted according to the “need-to-know” and “least privilege” principles. This means that users will only be granted access to PAXIS where it is required in order for the user to perform their assigned duties, and that the user will be assigned a profile with the minimum access permissions required to fulfill said duties.
19. Certain PAXIS user profiles provide access to PNR information. These profiles are assigned exclusively to targeting and intelligence personnel who require them to perform assigned duties or functions which are clearly linked to the identification of persons who have or may have committed a terrorism offence or serious transnational crime as set out in the PPIR.
20. Other PAXIS user profiles provide access to API and/or pre-departure Air Exit information only. These profiles are assigned to a varied set of users to perform assigned duties largely in support of the IAPI and Entry/Exit programs.
21. PAXIS access requests should be submitted through the IT Self-service Portal. All access requests must be approved by the user’s immediate superintendent, supervisor, chief or manager. For a list of PAXIS profiles and the associated permissions, please see the Appendix .
22. Each query and review of passenger data elements in PAXIS is recorded for audit purposes.
Timeframes for access to data in PAXIS
23. Per subsections 269(9) and (10) of the IRPR and section 3 of the PPIR, API and PNR data about a traveller are retained in PAXIS for 3.5 years after the CBSA receives the data, unless the data is required as part of an ongoing investigation, in which case it may be retained until the investigation is concluded, or up to a maximum of six years.
24. Additional data retained in PAXIS as part of the IAPI process and Entry/Exit Program, specifically pre-departure Air Exit Information, board/no-board messages and flight update notification messages are also retained for 3.5 years.
25. As set out in section 4 of the PPIR, access to PNR data in PAXIS changes over three distinct timeframes. During each timeframe, the treatment of PNR data becomes progressively more restrictive:
- (a) All PNR data collected is available for the first 72 hours after it is received.
- (b) For the period beginning 72 hours after receipt, and continuing until two years after receipt, the names of travellers in the PNR are masked. These may be unmasked only where a targeting or intelligence officer reasonably believes that the name of the person is required in order to proceed with an investigation relating to a terrorism offence or serious transnational crime.
- (c) For the period beginning 2 years after receipt, and continuing until the data is deleted 3.5 years after it was received, all PNR data elements which could serve to identify the person to whom the information relates are masked and will be available for viewing only if approved by the President of the CBSA to identify persons in relation to a terrorism offence or serious transnational crime.
Requesting access to PNR received two or more years ago
26. As required by subsection 4(3) of the PPIR, CBSA officials may have access to retained PNR elements in PAXIS that could serve to identify a person which are 2 to 3.5 years old only if the President authorizes such access as necessary to identify an individual who is reasonably suspected of having committed a terrorist offence or serious transnational crime.
27. Any request for Presidential approval to unmask this data must be made in writing. The requesting official must explain their suspicion, and set out specific and articulable facts that support the suspicion on a particularized and objective basis.
28. The President may only authorize such a request where the President has determined there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the individual in question has committed the alleged offence. This requires a finding that there is a reasonable possibility the individual has committed the offence, grounded in objective facts.
29. Presidential authorization may only be given in writing. Subsection 4(6) of the PPIR requires that a record be kept of any Presidential authorization. This record must be retained for at least two years. At a minimum, this record must contain:
- (a) The name of the requesting official
- (b) The reasons for the request
- (c) The name of the subject of the request and
- (d) The date on which the request was made, the date the request was authorized, and the date the information was accessed
Disclosure of API and Pre-departure Air Exit Information
30. API and pre-departure Air Exit Information may be disclosed under section 8 of the Privacy Act or section 150.1 of the IRPA, for personal and/or immigration related cases, or under section 107 of the Customs Act, for customs related cases.
31. For additional guidance on section 107 of the Customs Act and Section 8 of the Privacy Act contact CBSA officials at the Information Sharing and Collaborative Arrangements Unit directly.
Disclosure of PNR
32. PNR information may only be disclosed pursuant to the applicable provisions of the PPIR for immigration-related cases, or under section 107 of the Customs Act for customs-related cases. Nevertheless, it is the policy of the CBSA that all disclosures of PNR data must comply with the principles laid out in sections 6-9 of the PPIR.
Disclosure of PNR to domestic authorities
33. The CBSA may disclose PNR to domestic authorities, including federal and provincial departments and authorities, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and provincial and municipal police forces. Such disclosures may be made in response to a request; pursuant to the terms of a written agreement or arrangement between the CBSA and the domestic recipient; or as a proactive disclosure, that is, where a CBSA official provides information to a domestic recipient without said recipient having asked for the information. A disclosure of PNR in any of the foregoing circumstances is subject to the following principles as laid out in section 6 of the PPIR:
- (a) The disclosure must be on a case-by-case basis. PNR must never be disclosed in bulk.
- (b) There are reasonable grounds to believe that the PNR would be relevant to the prevention, investigation or prosecution of a terrorism offence or serious transnational crime. Reasonable grounds exist if the CBSA official authorizing the disclosure believes the PNR would be relevant to the prevention, investigation or prosecution of a terrorism offence or serious transnational crime, and that belief is supported by compelling and credible information. In cases where a CBSA official has concerns as to whether there are reasonable grounds to disclose, the official may advise the requester that a subpoena or a judicial order may be required.
- (c) The receiving department or authority exercises functions directly related to the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of terrorism offences or serious transnational crimes. This condition cannot be satisfied if the receiving department or authority does not have clear lawful authority to receive the PNR in question.
- (d) The receiving department or authority has undertaken to apply standards to protect the PNR that are at least equivalent to those set out in the PPIR. This would include commitments to not use the PNR other than for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of terrorism offences or serious transnational crimes; and to not retain the PNR longer than the retention limits discussed in paragraph 23 of this memorandum. This may be accomplished through the use of caveats included with the disclosure.
- (e) The receiving department or authority has undertaken not to further disclose the PNR without the permission of the Agency, unless required by law to do so. Like the requirements in paragraph 32(c), this may be accomplished through the use of caveats included with the disclosure.
- (f) The CBSA must disclose only the minimum elements of PNR necessary for the purposes for which it is disclosed.
34. Deciding to disclose PNR is a discretionary decision that should be exercised with care and only after diligent consideration of the circumstances. A lawful authority to disclose must always exist and the onus is on the official approving the disclosure to ensure that there is an appropriate rationale for the disclosure and that the principles laid out in paragraph 33 are satisfied. Proactive disclosures in particular, should only take place where an official is of an opinion that the receiving department or authority’s interest in the disclosure clearly outweighs the person’s expectation of privacy.
35. Per section 7 of the PPIR, despite the principles laid out in paragraph 33, nothing prevents the Agency from disclosing PNR information to comply with a subpoena, warrant or order issued by a court, person or body with jurisdiction in Canada to compel the production of information. This is the only exception to the disclosure requirements outlined in the foregoing paragraphs.
36. Whenever it becomes evident that a disclosure of PNR may lead to a series of similar disclosures to the same department or authority, it is recommended that the Agency enter into a written collaborative arrangement (WCA) with the recipient of the information. The WCA must satisfy all the principles laid out in paragraph 33.
Disclosure of PNR to foreign authorities
37. The CBSA may disclose PNR to a foreign government authority only where there is an applicable international agreement or arrangement that authorizes the disclosure of PNR by the CBSA to the receiving foreign government authority. A disclosure of PNR subject to such an agreement or arrangement must meet the following principles as laid out in section 8 of the PPIR:
- (a) The disclosure must be on a case-by-case basis. PNR must never be disclosed in bulk.
- (b) There are reasonable grounds to believe that the PNR would be relevant to the prevention, investigation or prosecution of a terrorism offence or serious transnational crime. Reasonable grounds exist if the CBSA official authorizing the disclosure believes the PNR would be relevant to the prevention, investigation or prosecution of a terrorism offence or serious transnational crime, and that belief is supported by compelling and credible information.
- (c) The receiving foreign government authority exercises functions directly related to the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of terrorism offences or serious transnational crimes.
- (d) The receiving foreign government authority has undertaken to apply standards to protect the PNR that are at least equivalent to those set out in the PPIR. This would include commitments to not use the PNR other than for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of terrorism offences or serious transnational crimes; and to not retain the PNR longer than the retention limits discussed in paragraph 23 of this memorandum. This may be accomplished through the use of caveats included with the disclosure. If the receiving foreign government authority is subject to a treaty with the European Union that sets out standards to protect PNR, those standards will be considered equivalent for the purposes of this paragraph and thus additional caveats will not be necessary. Currently, this applies only to the foreign government authorities in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, which have such treaties with the EU.
- (e) The CBSA must disclose only the minimum elements of PNR necessary for the purposes for which it is disclosed.
38. Deciding to disclose PNR, especially outside of Canada, is a discretionary decision that should be exercised with care and only after diligent consideration of the circumstances. A lawful authority, and an applicable agreement or arrangement, must always exist and the onus is on the official approving the disclosure to ensure that there is an appropriate rationale for the disclosure and the conditions laid out in paragraph 37 are satisfied.
Recording disclosures of PNR
39. Section 9 of the PPIR requires that a record be kept of any disclosure of PNR. This record must be retained for at least two years. At a minimum, this record must contain:
- (a) the name of the person to whom the information was disclosed, and the government department or authority where they are employed
- (b) the reasons for the disclosure
- (c) the name of the subject of the disclosure and
- (d) the date of the disclosure
40. Any disclosure record must also contain the lawful authority that was used to disclose the information and any caveats included.
41. The record of disclosure may be audited to ensure all required information is retained and that the appropriate caveats were shared with the receiving authority
Rights of access, correction, and complaint
42. Upon request, the CBSA will provide any individual, regardless of citizenship or presence in Canada, access to their pre-departure Air Exit, API and PNR information held by the CBSA, including board/no-board information. Individuals may make a request by completing the Traveller’s API/PNR Information Request and Pre-departure Air Exit form (BSF153).
43. The CBSA will consider any individual’s request to correct any error contained in their API, PNR or pre-departure Air Exit information. The Agency will either make the applicable correction, or attach a notation to the information indicating a request for correction was refused, and respond to the individual with an explanation of the legal or factual reasons why the request was refused.
44. If a correction is made to the individual’s data, or a notation is added, that information will be shared with any authorities that received the data via a disclosure request.
45. If you made a request under the Privacy Act, all individuals living in and outside of Canada may submit a complaint to the Officer of to Privacy Commissioner at File a formal privacy complaint - Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
46. Misuse of API, PNR or Air Exit Information in contravention of CBSA regulations, policies, directives, or standards may be subject to security screening review for cause as well as disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. Additionally, a person knowingly disclosing, providing access to or using customs information in a manner not authorized by the Customs Act is guilty of an indictable offence or an offence punishable on summary conviction under subsection 160(1) of that Act or potentially charged with criminal code violations, such as Breach of Trust, under section 122 of the Criminal Code.
47. The CBSA is committed to remaining in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Annex 9 Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) on Facilitation. The SARPs provide an international benchmark for which the CBSA, Government of Canada, and other Governments and their customs and/or immigration authorities can meet to ensure that the PNR data received from commercial air carriers is processed and retained according to international standards.
48. For more information within Canada, call the Border Information Service at 1-800-461-9999. From outside Canada, call 204-983-3500 or 506-636-5064. Long distance charges will apply. Agents are available Monday to Friday (08:00 – 16:00 local time / except holidays). TTY is also available within Canada: 1-866-335-3237.
|Project Support User (2293)||May be assigned to officers who are employed on teams working on PAXIS system development projects.|
|Business Support (2294)||May be assigned to officers who are employed on teams working on business system support for the PAXIS system.|
|Targeting Officer – People (2295)||May only be assigned to Targeting Officers employed by the people targeting section at the National Targeting Centre.|
|Targeting Supervisor/Manager (2296)||May only be assigned to Targeting Supervisors and Managers who work in the targeting people section at the National Targeting Centre.|
|Targeting Ops Support – People (2297)||May only be assigned to program officers who are employed in the NTC Targeting Ops Support Unit – People.|
|NTC Intelligence – People (2298)||May only be assigned to officers employed by the Targeting Operations Intelligence Unit who support NTC Targeting – People.|
|Traveller Targeting Programs (2299)||May be assigned to program officers within the Programs Branch who are employed on the team responsible for the targeting program.|
|Regional/HQ Intelligence (2300)||May be assigned to CBSA Intelligence Officers and Analysts.|
|HQ Program Support (2301)||May be assignedto program officers employed at HQ that support IAPI, API/PNR program or the targeting program.|
|Compliance Officer (2302)||May be assigned only to program officers who are employed with the Airline Compliance Unit.|
|Liaison Officer (2341)||May be given to officers employed by the International Network Section, in support of the IAPI program.|
|Transporter Obligations (2342)||May be given to officers employed by the Transporter Obligations program.|
|HQ Program Support IAPI (2343)||May be given to officers who are employed within areas at HQ that support the IAPI program.|
|IAPI Only - Special (2344)||May be given to officers who are authorized to access IAPI information for a specific purpose and timeframe.|
|BOC Officer (2345)||May be given to officers employed in the Border Operations Centre in support of API/PNR and targeting programs.|
|Outbound Only – Special (2381)||May be given to officers who are authorized to access outbound information for a specific purpose and timeframe.|
- Issuing office
- Policy and Program Development Division
Travellers Policy and Programs Directorate
- Headquarters file
- Legislative references
- Other references
- Superseded memorandum D
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