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Traveller Modernization: New tools and technologies for a faster, better and safe experience at the border

From: Canada Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is working to make travel smoother while keeping the border safe.

Learn about what is already available for travellers at the border and what to expect in the coming years. We are putting in place tools and technologies, and updating processes, laws and policies to build the border of the future.

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Why we need to modernize our border services

The CBSA's border management needs to keep pace with a changing world.

We're modernizing our services to respond to:

We know that new technologies may raise concerns about privacy, bias and protection of personal information. To address this, we are taking careful steps to research and plan our actions. We are also taking the time to talk with partners, stakeholders and the public.

What is already available at the border

Travellers already have the option to use digital tools and technologies at the border.

This includes facial recognition to help confirm your identity securely, while making the process faster and easier.

For example, if you're arriving in a Canadian international airport, you can:

Here is what travellers arriving at the Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport recently said about their experience using Advance Declaration:

It was easy, it was fast. It took 2 minutes. There was nothing complicated about it.

It just took me like not even 2 minutes, so I just did some verification and boom I'm just out.

We use facial recognition technology only to verify your identity when entering Canada.

If you don't want to use the new digital tools, you still have the option to present yourself to a border services officer, just as you do now.

The information you provide helps us protect Canada

When you cross the border, we collect information from your customs and immigration declaration.

We can collect this information:

There are good reasons you must answer the questions in your declaration. We enforce more than 100 acts and regulations that keep our country and Canadians safe.

When we ask you to confirm if you are “... bringing into Canada raw or cooked meat, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, etc.”

It is because importing a single piece of fruit or meat into Canada can be harmful to our ecosystems. Various food, plant and animal products are restricted or prohibited from entry because they can hide invasive species, foreign animal diseases and plant pests.

More information: Bringing food, plant and animal products into Canada

When we ask you to confirm if you have "... visited a farm and will be going to a farm in Canada."

It is because visiting a farm in another country might seem harmless, but it could expose you to diseases or pests that could pose a threat to:

  • you and your family's health
  • your animals
  • wild animals
  • the environment
  • farming and production income
  • the Canadian economy

More information: Biosecurity at the border

When we ask you to confirm if you are "...bringing into Canada currency and/or monetary instruments totalling CAN$10,000 or more."

It is because the CBSA is responsible for administering and enforcing Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) to help the Government of Canada:

  • detect and deter money laundering and terrorist financing activities
  • facilitate the investigation and prosecution of related offences
  • respond to the threat posed by organized crime
  • fulfill international commitments to fight transnational crime

More information: Travellers - Travelling with CAN$ 10,000 or more

For more information on what to expect at the border, check out:

What to expect in the future

We are working with partners, stakeholders and community associations as we:

We know we can't do this alone.

Designing change with and for our border services officers

Frontline employees across the country are contributing their expertise to our efforts. They are helping to design and implement new technologies, processes and systems.

Over 1,500 officers, chiefs and superintendents across the country are already involved.

As more travellers choose to use digital tools to declare their information, there will be less need to collect it manually. This will allow border officers to focus even more on high-risk travellers and activities.

Partnerships with Indigenous peoples

Canada's international borders physically divides Indigenous communities and traditional lands. This can pose challenges to cross-border movement, economies and traditional and cultural practices. As part of its commitment to Reconciliation, the CBSA has been working with Indigenous Peoples and communities on border mobility to build a relationship based on respect, partnership, and recognition of Indigenous rights. For example, the CBSA's Indigenous Affairs Secretariat is working closely with Indigenous communities across the country and at the local level to make sure that border measures and regulations are up to date and consistent with current needs, circumstances and rights.

Working with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner

We make sure that the privacy of travellers and their information is protected at all times. For all new biometrics projects, we follow rules for privacy and test new technology with a diverse group of participants. We have more planned discussions and activities for this year with key stakeholders and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

Find out about the laws in place to respect your privacy:

International and industry partnerships

On , Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), on behalf of the CBSA, initiated a competitive solicitation process to qualify suppliers with experience providing Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) capabilities. This process will allow the CBSA to test and eventually acquire facial recognition technology to allow travellers to identify themselves using their smartphone when crossing the border.

This competitive solicitation process will allow us to solicit multiple industry vendors to test and understand solutions that are best suited for our specific needs before entering into contract(s).

We are looking for the best technology to use a photo from the traveller's ePassport and match it to a photo taken via a mobile application. The competitive solicitation process will focus on evaluating facial recognition capabilities regarding:

  • image acquisition
  • image quality
  • fraud detection
  • image matching

This research is a necessary and important step to ensure that the CBSA acquires the proper technology to support and optimize the future use of biometric technology at the border.

When we acquire new technologies, we apply the Government of Canada Digital Standards, which focus on user-friendly and accessible design. To ensure our systems meet global standards, we follow international standards from organizations such as:

For more information and to submit a request to qualify in this process, please visit CanadaBuys.

Have your say

As a traveller, we want your insights to make sure we are on the right track and that our tools meet your needs. Engaging travellers, accessibility advocates, the travel and tourism sector and other interest groups in the design of border tools will ensure they are easy to use and reliable.

In 2020, we heard Canadians' views on the CBSA and the work we do at the border. Here is some of the feedback we received:

Proposal Objective Public feedback
Electronic kiosks Shorter wait times PositiveFootnote 1
Better use of data More efficient processes PositiveFootnote 2
More collection of data Efficiency Mixed positive and negativeFootnote 3
Protection of data Privacy Largely confident in the CBSA's ability

Table note

Table note 1

Travellers who used an electronic inspection kiosk at the airport said they were easy to use and saved them time compared to waiting to speak to a border services officer in person.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Table note 2

Travellers expressed that using technology to share information could speed up processing. For example, using an app to fill out customs information could direct them to a different customs line at the airport, making things faster.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Table note 3

Some had no issues with providing more personal information, some were opposed to the idea in principle and others would need more details to form an opinion.

Return to footnote 3 referrer

We have made some progress since 2020 with these views in mind, but more needs to be done. We will be inviting you once again to share your opinions, concerns, and suggestions about technologies at the border so we can continue to improve. Stay tuned for more information on how you can share your ideas and comments.

How the CBSA collects, uses and stores your information

When you provide your information as you enter Canada, we make sure to protect and secure it. We do not keep it for any longer than we need to.

One of the ways we do this is through a privacy impact assessment. This is a tool we use to identify how our programs and services might affect someone's privacy. By identifying issues first, we can resolve or mitigate them.

Example 1: Advance Declaration

When you use Advance Declaration to submit your customs and immigration declaration, your travel information is encrypted and transmitted securely to the CBSA. We retain this information for only 72 hours, so that our airport kiosks or eGates can retrieve it when you arrive at the airport.

More information: Advance Declaration privacy impact assessment (2022)

Example 2: Airport kiosks and eGates

When you enter Canada and get your photo taken at an airport kiosk or eGate, we can verify your identity. Your photo and personal information are not stored on the kiosks or eGates. The devices encrypt and transfer the data securely to CBSA information systems, where it is kept for 15 years. Once the kiosks or eGates print your receipt they delete your data.

More information: Primary inspection kiosk privacy impact assessment (2017)

More examples: CBSA's privacy impact assessments


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