Advance CBSA Declaration: Save Time at the Canadian Border

Despite NEXUS airport enrolment centres reopening in Canada this spring, many applications are still in limbo as American and Canadian authorities work to clear hefty post-pandemic backlogs. This leaves many travellers without NEXUS stuck in regular passport control lines.

However, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) offers a feature called Advance CBSA Declaration, which allows arriving passengers into Canada to expedite their way through CBSA clearance lines at ports of entry.

It uses the controversial ArriveCAN app, which could’ve become a relic of the pandemic but has since been put into better use. It’s important to note that the use of ArriveCAN is entirely optional these days, but if you choose to use it, it might just speed up your arrival.

What Is Advance CBSA Declaration?

Advance CBSA Declaration is an app-based service that allows you to complete parts of your Canadian border clearance beforehand, thus expediting your entry to the Canada. Passengers of any nationality who are arriving from any international destination may use this service free-of-charge.

By pre-filling your information and answering CBSA inspection-related questions, you’ll get to join an express line and spend less time using one of the arrival kiosks and facing a CBSA officer.

To be clear, Advance CBSA Declaration is not a trusted traveller program like NEXUS, which allows you to be processed separately at Canadian borders. Furthermore, it doesn’t provide any benefit at security lines like Express.

On the other hand, there’s also no long-drawn pre-approval process or cost for this service, as you might experience with NEXUS. You can think of it as being the Canadian counterpart of Mobile Passport Control, which lets you make your customs and immigration declarations beforehand and join an express line upon arriving in the US or when using a pre-clearance facility.

The Advance CBSA Declaration service is already being offered at most of Canada’s international airports, including:

  • Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) (Terminals 1 & 3)
  • Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
  • Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG)
  • Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ)
  • Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB)
  • Calgary International Airport (YYC)
  • Ottawa International Airport (YOW)
  • Edmonton International Airport (YEG)
  • Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ)

How to Use Advance CBSA Declaration

First, you’ll need to download the ArriveCAN app on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

You’ll be then asked to create an account or to sign in. To create an account, you’ll need your email address, a password, and the verification code you’ll get via email.

Next, you’ll find yourself at the home screen. Before travelling, you can create profiles for yourself and your companions under the “Travellers” tab below, which makes the process smoother later.

On one device, you can create profiles for yourself and your group, which doesn’t necessarily have to be your family.

Upon clicking “Add traveller”, you’ll be asked to take a photo of your passport bio page using the app’s built-in scanning function. Your passport’s bio page is glossy, so make sure that the scan has no glare and is not blurry.

If accepted, your details will automatically be populated into the form. But if you’re having trouble scanning, you can choose to enter your passport details manually instead.

Note that Canadian Permanent Residents (PRs) must use their Permanent Resident card (PR card). In this case, your details must be entered manually.

You’ll be given the option to save your passport/PR card data on the app, which can only be accessed with your login information.

Within 72 hours prior to your arrival in Canada, you can make your declaration through the app by clicking the “Start” button on the home page.

With profiles already stored, you can proceed to choosing your arrival airport, date and time of arrival, where you’re coming from, where you live, and how long you’ve been away.

Then, you’ll be asked to make your arrival declarations. The yes-no questions mostly concern customs (e.g., food, firearms, and currency), but they may also include health declarations as needed. There are additional details available to guide you in answering the questions.

Note that if you’re travelling as a family or group, you must select all the people for whom you’re making the submission, and each member may enter a different answer.

You’ll then get a confirmation on both the app and your email. You can access your Advance CBSA Declaration acknowledgement on the app.

Note that your declaration is valid until 72 hours after your stated arrival time, just in case your arrival gets delayed.

Upon arrival at the passport control area, look for the bright green sign that says “Express.” The line will lead you to automated kiosks, where you’d need to first scan your passport bio page or PR card.

Save time at the Canadian border with Advance CBSA Declaration

Using the travel document details that you entered on the app, the system will recognize that you’ve already done your declarations ahead of time. It will just ask you to confirm your declarations or make changes, as necessary.

The kiosk will then automatically take your photo and print a receipt that you’ll present with your travel document to a Canadian border officer.

And that’s it — welcome to Canada!

Conclusion

With many NEXUS applications still in process, in the meantime, you can use Advance CBSA Declaration to save time arriving at Canadian airports.

While it’s not as powerful as a trusted traveller program like NEXUS, you’d still get to join an express line, bypassing the long, snaking queues often found at Canadian passport control.

The service is completely free and doesn’t require pre-approval. It’s also easy to sign up for and use, so make sure you install it before your next arrival to Canada.