CBSA’s Interactive Advance Passenger Information Due to Come into Effect

View PDF: 2016-05 (Aug 31-16)

On September 30, 2016, changes related to the Canadian government’s collection of information regarding all passengers and crews aboard commercial air carriers destined for Canada come into effect. In addition, the leniency period allowing visa-exempt foreign nationals to travel to Canada without an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) will also come to an end.

The Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) has been working with the more than 200 foreign air carriers that operate in Canada over the last several months to get each of them transitioned to the “Interactive Advance Passenger Information” initiative (“IAPI”). This regime replaces the Advance Passenger Information/Passenger Name Record Program, known as “API/PNR”.

Air carriers are required to provide information to the federal government under two pieces of legislation: the Customs Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Regulations setting out the prescribed information have been made under each act, but the information prescribed is the same under both.

Under API/PNR and IAPI, carriers are obligated to provide the CBSA with all Advance Passenger Information (“API”) not later than one hour before the time of departure for crew members and not later than the time of departure for passengers. API includes:

  • Surname, first name, any middle names
  • Date of birth
  • Citizenship or nationality
  • Gender
  • Type and number of passport or other travel documents and the name of the country or entity that issued it
  • Reservation locator number

The regulatory change coming into effect relates to the provision of Passenger Name Record (“PNR”) data. The changes to the regulation relate to the description of what information must be provided and to the time by which that information must be provided. Where the old regulations simply provided that carriers had to transmit “any information about the person in a reservation system”, the new regulation is more specific in its inclusion of a schedule that sets out the kind of information that must be transmitted if it is available in a reservation system. The PNR information set out in the Schedule includes information typically collected in carriers’ reservation systems, including:

  • Surname, first name and any middle names
  • Reservation record locator number
  • Date of reservation and date of ticket issuance
  • Itinerary
  • Loyalty program information
  • Contact information
  • Billing and payment information
  • Code share information
  • Ticketing information including ticket number, automated ticket fare quote and whether one-way ticket was purchased
  • Baggage information

While under API/PNR, PNR data only had to be transmitted not later than the time of departure, under the new IAPI it must be transmitted at least 72 hours prior to departure if it is available. In addition, this information must be updated as the time of departure approaches. Any addition or change to PNR data that is made more than 24 hours prior to departure must be transmitted not later than 24 hours before departure and any addition or change that is made more than eight hours but less than 24 hours prior to departure must be transmitted at least eight hours before departure. If any change or update to the PNR data is made within eight hours of the time of departure, this must be transmitted not later than the time of departure.

The requirements that the CBSA be provided PNR data well in advance of departure, and that this information be updated as changes are made, require a more interactive system of transmission. Jurisdictions like the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have moved to an interactive system allowing for the exchange of electronic messaging between border authorities and carriers in the last number of years. Canada is joining this group.

This initiative was pursued as part of the “Beyond the Border Action Plan” between the governments of Canada and the United States, concluded in 2011. In particular, Canada committed to mirror American pre-screening programs brought into place after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

One reason given by governments for moving to interactive systems is to allow border control authorities to determine whether a traveller is prohibited from entering the jurisdiction prior to an incoming flight’s departure. In addition, it allows for the earlier determination that a traveller has the documents required for travel into Canada.

The Canadian government has stated that the IAPI initiative will “contribute to preventing prescribed persons and improperly documented foreign nationals from reaching Canadian ports of entry, thereby protecting the integrity of Canada’s immigration program and enhancing public safety.” A virtual wall of sorts.

Interactive systems that allow/require earlier transmission of PNR data are also said to “facilitate faster clearance of international passengers and [to] reduce examination time upon arrival.”

The eTA program, which was instituted earlier this year also forms part of Canada’s implementation of the Beyond the Border Action Plan. Under the eTA program, foreign nationals who are visa-exempt, but other than citizens of the United States, must apply for and obtain an eTA before booking flights destined for Canada. An eTA is valid for up to five years or until the passport used to apply expires.

The eTA is also said to have been designed to improve pre-departure screening of travellers to Canada.

IAPI, like the eTA program, comes into full force at the end of September, at which time all carriers must have been fully transitioned to the new system. This transition includes a period of testing the actual method of transmission of data that will be used by each carrier. The CBSA has had a team of technicians in place to work with carriers to test and certify each carrier’s method.

The regulations provide that API and PNR information must be provided to the CBSA “by electronic means in accordance with the technical requirements, specifications and procedures for electronic data interchange set out in the document entitled CBSA Carrier Messaging Requirements”. This document is more than 500 pages long.

Among the options is the CBSA’s own communication infrastructure, a file upload process to the CBSA’s Internet API Gateway or by email.

In addition, carriers will have had to determine whether they choose to transmit the prescribed information themselves, through a service provider, or a combination of the two. Code share arrangements between carriers must also be factored into the method of transmission.

While the CBSA no doubt prefers that all information for a given flight come from one source, this is often not possible. For example, where all passenger information is collected by the marketing carrier and is not known by the operating carrier, it is likely that the carriers will choose to have the marketing carrier transmit passenger API and PNR, while the operating carrier will transmit crew API data.

The CBSA appears to recognize that different configurations and methods of transmission of data will work best for different carriers.

However, it is important that all of these issues are addressed during the testing and certification process, so that the method and configuration is known and in place by the end of September. If a carrier is not transitioned by that time, its data may be rejected.