Arrests, detentions and removals

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers carry out arrests, detentions and removals of individuals who are not permitted in Canada.


A CBSA officer may issue a warrant for the arrest and detention of a permanent resident or foreign national if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the individual is inadmissible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and:

Immigration law allows for the arrest and detention of foreign nationals without a warrant.

In all cases, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires that the arresting officer inform the arrested individual of:


Canada's immigration law permits the CBSA to detain permanent residents and foreign nationals under certain conditions. Officers must consider all reasonable alternatives before making the decision to detain an individual. The CBSA ensures that it is exercising responsibility for detentions to the highest possible standards. The physical and mental health and well-being of detainees, as well as the safety and security of Canadians, are primary considerations. The launch of the National Immigration Detention Framework (NIDF) marked the onset of the transformation of Canada's immigration detention system, to make it better and fairer.

CBSA officers can detain a foreign national or permanent resident at a port of entry if:

CBSA officers can also detain a foreign national if:

  1. they have reasonable grounds to believe the person is:
    • unlikely to appear for an immigration proceeding (for example, examination, hearing, removal)
    • a danger to the public
    • unable to satisfy the officer of their identity
  2. they are designated as part of an irregular arrival by the Minister of Public Safety.

Reasons for continuing detention may be found in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

Find out more about detentions.

Alternatives to Detention Program

The CBSA started the national roll-out of its Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Program, which represents a key pillar of the NIDF. With the implementation of the ATD Program, the CBSA has established an expanded set of tools and programs that enable officers to more effectively release individuals into the community, while achieving balanced enforcement outcomes.

The ATD program was developed in consultation with stakeholders. In addition to release on reporting conditions (that is, in-person reporting), cash deposit or the establishment of a bondsperson, the ATD Program will include additional mechanisms of release:

The Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Program provides risk-based, nationally consistent programming to individuals deemed suitable for release from detention. It is an expanded set of tools and programs that enables officers to more effectively release individuals into the community, while achieving balanced enforcement outcomes.

Alternatives to Detention Community Programming

ATD community programming allows individuals to reside in the community supported by family/kin, or supported by a service provider that specializes in community services. Program options can be used alone or together. Options include:

Release to a Community Case Management and Supervision (CCMS) program: CCMS is intended for persons that lack a bondsperson, and/or who require support in addition to a bondsperson to mitigate risk upon release into the community. The support provided is tailored to individuals’ needs to ensure compliance with program requirements. Services may include:

Electronic supervision tools

Electronic supervision tools complement community programming by providing additional tools that support communication to the CBSA:

Enrollment occurs on an ATD occurs after an individual has been deemed suitable for program participation by the CBSA, or after the IRB has ordered the individual released.

Throughout the immigration or enforcement continuum individuals may have their release conditions changed based on their behaviour and overall level of compliance with the conditions of their release.

All decisions made by the IRB may be challenged by the individual, either at a subsequent detention review before the IRB, or through an application for a change of conditions to the IRB. Any decision made by the CBSA or the IRB may be reviewed according to existing legislative frameworks.

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Removing individuals who do not have the right to enter or stay in Canada is essential to maintaining the integrity of our immigration program and to ensuring fairness for those who come to this country lawfully.

The CBSA places highest priority on removal cases involving national security, organized crime, crimes against humanity and criminals. Failed refugee claimants who arrived between ports of entry are also a priority due to their impact on Canada’s asylum system.

Processing a removal

The removals process is complex and not linear.

The existence of a removal order does not necessarily mean that the CBSA can remove someone from Canada. The CBSA takes action to remove individuals only at the end of a complex, non-linear and legally-prescribed process. This process involves various applications to Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Individuals can also ask to have the Federal Court judicially review decisions made by officers in relation to removals, this can also include an automatically or discretionary halt of the removal (called a "stay" of removal) until the court makes a decision. The CBSA may need to obtain travel documents on the behalf of the person being removed—which can take time, depending on the cooperation of the country of origin. While the CBSA works collaboratively with other Government of Canada departments to engage other countries, this is not always a simple task and can take time.

Once all legal and administrative processes have been exhausted, travel arrangements are made for removal. This may be as simple as driving someone to the Canada-US border or as complicated as chartering a plane when a person cannot be removed by commercial airliner. Risk-based decisions are made on whether the person needs to be escorted and what routing to take. Depending on the complexity of the routing, including if it requires transit in a third country, this planning process can take time.

Find out more about the removals process.

Meeting removals targets

In years 2019 to 2020, the CBSA carried out 11,444 removals. This was the highest number achieved in the previous 5 years.

Still, the Agency recognizes that more can be done to increase the number of removals, and will continue to improve its performance on removals. It is working on a strategy to better meet its goals, and developing innovative strategies to increase the number of people under a removal order who leave Canada on their own. The Agency is working with partners to better track and triage cases for faster action. It will be taking steps to locate foreign nationals whose whereabouts are unknown by completing a review all outstanding cases, prioritizing criminal cases, and focusing investigations on the most concerning cases. These combined measures will continue to build on the progress already made.

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