U.S. & Canada border begin record keeping, data exchange on citizens' cross-border trips

Clearit.ca's Blog on Customs Brokerage and News Updates

U.S. & Canada border begin record keeping, data exchange on citizens’ cross-border trips

Come next Monday (June 30, 2014), the American and Canadian governments will begin exchanging information about how much time their citizens spend in each other’s countries. The change will be made possible by new record keeping on exits via land border crossings, and is expected to be particularly significant for Canadian snowbirds who are in the habit of extending their southern sojourns beyond the winter months.

Deal between Canada & USA Border Long Time in the Making

The pathway to this information sharing program was laid out in 2011 in the Entry/Exit Initiative of the joint U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness. Phase I of the initiative constituted a proof-of-concept test tracking the movements of foreigners at four land border crossings in late 2012 and early 2013. The successful trial run led to the implementation of Phase II a year ago, and currently Biographic Entry Data on travelers who are citizens of neither Canada nor the U.S. is collected at all automated land border ports of entry and exchanged.

At the end of the month, Phase III becomes effective, expanding data collection and exchange to everyone crossing the border, including U.S. and Canadian citizens and Registered Indians. Although both countries have long kept records of entries, the new data on exits means that they will now know exactly how long a given person has spent in each country.

Canadians Extending Their Stay Must be Careful

canada border law
Snowbirds who formerly didn’t worry very much about keeping track of their time in the U.S. (on the basis that the U.S. government wasn’t keeping track of it either) will now have to be a little more careful. They are advised to make sure they know their entry and exit dates so they can calculate their total number of days in the U.S., complete required declarations accurately, and avoid trouble with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Staying too long can have some truly unpleasant immigration and tax consequences. Canadians who remain in the U.S. for a total of more than 180 days in any 12-month period (not calendar year) are considered unlawfully present and can be banned from the country for three years – ten years if they stay over 365 days. Meanwhile, U.S. residency for tax purposes can be established by spending as few as 120 days per year in the country, as the IRS takes into account the preceding two years as well as the current one in making the determination.

For those who don’t remember all the details or are having trouble with the calculations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has set up a website that shows what that agency has in its database for the past five years. Users need to enter a name, date of birth, and passport number. If they notice any discrepancies between CBP’s records and their own travel history, they should be sure to contact the agency to clear things up before attempting to enter the U.S. again.