The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Simplified Arrival program is making its way to Canada. The service will debut at Toronto Pearson International Airport, before expanding to seven other international airports that offer flights to the United States.
All eight airports are part of the Preclearance arrangement between Canada and the United States, which allows travelers headed to the US to pass through customs in Canada before they get on the plane. Those passengers do not need to pass through customs again when they arrive, and can instead pick up their luggage and leave the airport as soon as they land.
The Simplified Arrival program, meanwhile, is a biometric screening program that identifies international travelers with facial recognition. The service matches a new photo of each traveler to an image stored in a government database. Anyone who cannot be matched will be sent to a border agent for a manual inspection.
US citizens can opt out of the facial recognition scan, in which case they will also be directed to a border agent. The faces of US citizens who do not opt out will be deleted within 12 hours. The photos of foreign nationals, on the other hand, will be permanently stored in a Department of Homeland Security database.
Simplified Arrival will reach the Vancouver, Montréal, and Calgary airports before the end of February. It will then expand to Edmonton, Halifax, Ottawa, and Winnipeg. CBP noted that the use of facial recognition will support a contactless passenger experience during the pandemic.
“Simplified Arrival is a prime example of technology that will allow travelers to complete the customs journey faster, more securely and with less contact,” said Deborah Flint, the President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.
Canada is not the first country to offer Simplified Arrival Preclearance service, after CBP brought the program to Bermuda and the Bahamas in December. CBP has also been working to expand the Simplified Arrival program on American soil. The service debuted at airports in Los Angeles, Miami, and Las Vegas in the last few months of 2020.
February 18, 2021 – by Eric Weiss