"Flagpoling" describes the process for Canadian foreign national residents who need validate a Confirmation of Permanent Residence or a permanent resident visa by exiting Canada at a United States land border, then immediately turning around to re-enter Canada at the same land border where an officer will interview you, and grant you entry into Canada. Flagpoling is not illegal; the word flagpoling refers to making a U-turn at the border entry flagpole.
The benefit to flagpoling is that the required documentation to validate your Canadian immigration status is less than 30 minutes, versus scheduling an appointment at an IRCC office and submitting your application online, which can take weeks or months to schedule. Visas requiring validation include:
- work permit
- study permit
- temporary resident permit
- visitor document
- any immigration document
Since 2017 the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) has begun limiting flagpoling at certain points of entry to only Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Ontario and Quebec's Rainbow, Queenston-Lewiston, Peace, Lacolle and St-Armand land borders. CBSA has stated that this pilot program is to manage the high volume and long waits due to flagpoling at certain land borders on the weekends.
The Canadian Bar Association has officially protested that the CBSA Flagpoling Pilot Project and refusing to process applications of genuine temporary residents seeking entry is unlawful, and called for its elimination:
“The refusal to process these requests at ports of entry can have a significant detrimental impact on an applicant’s ability to work or study in Canada, as well as on their health insurance coverage”
What to do if you need to validate a Confirmation of Permanent Residence or a permanent resident visa
- Schedule your flagpoling trip only on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
- Schedule a day trip to the United States so you can apply for re-entry to Canada on any day of the week, at any time of day.
- Apply online or by mail for an appointment with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada to have your visa validated, which IRCC advises could take longer than 2 months.
- Consult an immigration lawyer or expert if you feel your rights are being denied and you need assistance with immigration to Canada.