What You Need to Know about CANPASS for Business Aviation – Part 2: Using CANPASS

PT 4 M minute read
What You Need to Know about CANPASS for Business Aviation – Part 2: Using CANPASS

This business aviation blog post is part two in a two-part series and continues from our previous post titled "What You Need to Know about CANPASS – Part 1 What is CANPASS."

Membership in CANPASS corporate or private aircraft programs offers significant advantages to participants and allows more flexible entry options into Canada. These programs, however, do have nuances and restrictions to consider. It’s best to talk directly with your 3rd-party provider or the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to determine how your flight department can benefit most from these programs.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Is the CANPASS reporting process used for all arrivals into Canada – including tech stops?

Yes, the process is the same, whether if it’s an overnight or tech stop. How the process is done, however, depends on the number of people onboard. Up to and including 39 people (pax and crew) can do a telephonic clearance, and the local inspector has the right to come out to physically clear the aircraft. With more than 39 persons onboard, customs arrangements must be made with the local CBSA office for physical customs clearance. Important: No more than 15 persons may be onboard the aircraft to take advantage of CANPASS private or corporate aircraft program benefits.

2. What’s the process for setting up clearance prior to arrival in Canada?

For a telephonic clearance, the captain must call 1-888-CANPASS at least two hours, but no more than 48 hours, prior to arrival. A 3rd-party provider cannot make these arrangements but may forward information to CBSA in advance on the operator’s behalf. Required information includes:

  • the Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA)
  • aircraft registration
  • destination in Canada
  • full name, date of birth, citizenship and passport information for all persons on board
  • purpose of trip and length of stay in Canada for non-residents
  • length of absence for Canadian residents

All travelers must declare any personal goods they are importing. If duty or taxes are payable, the CBSA officer will obtain a credit card number from the individual concerned. Best practice is to note the CBSA inspector’s badge number as confirmation.

3. When we arrive in Canada, what’s the procedure?

Upon arrival, the captain calls 1-888-CANPASS – prior to opening the aircraft door and only if the flight does not qualify under CANPASS private or corporate aircraft programs – to advise that the aircraft has arrived. The inspector will ask if anything has changed and, if all is OK, will confirm that the flight is cleared. If you’ve set up a physical clearance, ask air traffic control (ATC) where to proceed. You’ll often clear at a customs ramp, but that varies airport to airport. Physical clearance is usually quick, but that depends on the airport, the inspector and traffic volume at the time. Members of CANPASS private and corporate aircraft programs are free to proceed (without reporting in to 1-888-CANPASS) if no CBSA inspector is waiting for them at the designated ETA.

4. What happens if we need to divert?

If the aircraft has to land at a place not designated for customs reporting, due to weather conditions or other circumstances, the pilot should call 1-888-CANPASS, the nearest Canadian customs office or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police office. Depending on the circumstances, the flight may be cleared over the phone, the pilot may be requested to await the arrival of a customs officer at the site, or the pilot may be requested to fly to the nearest airport of entry (AOE) at the first opportunity.

5. Are there special procedures if we have firearms, animals or certain food products onboard?

If you’re a visitor to Canada and do not have a Canadian firearms license and registration certificate, you’re required to declare all firearms in writing. That can be done by filling out Form CAFC 909 (non-resident firearm declaration) and paying a $25 Canadian dollar fee. That has the same effect as a temporary license and registration and is valid for up to 60 days. If you’re importing restricted firearms, you’ll need an authorization to transport (ATT), and that application can be obtained from the Canada Firearms Centre at 1-800-731-4000. Visitors cannot, under any circumstances, import prohibited firearms. Note that no outbound clearance is required for firearms. When travelling with a pet, you’ll need to declare the animal when making customs arrangements and have an updated vaccination record available. Certain meats, fruits and vegetables are not allowed into Canada. See the CBSA website for agriculture restrictions.

6. What are considerations in terms of criminal records?

Anyone with a criminal history in his or her home country will be denied entry to Canada if that criminal history is known to CBSA. That includes all felony convictions, as well as driving under the influence convictions for U.S. nationals. If an individual has a criminal history, he or she may request a temporary permit to enter Canada for a few days or apply for full criminal rehabilitation. The latter option takes time, and you may need an attorney to assist with the process.

6. Are there issues with minors onboard without parents?

For travel with onboard minors, without both parents present, best practice is to have a letter of guardianship onboard. While that is not technically a requirement in Canada, having such evidence may help avoid any delays or issues.

7. Any other tips?

Most issues with clearance into Canada are a result of forgetting to call CANPASS at least two hours prior to arrival. That is considered an "unannounced arrival." Best practice is to report your intended arrival to CANPASS during the appropriate notice period (2-48 hours in advance of arrival), to get the badge number of the officer you set up clearance with and to advise CANPASS of any changes to your ETA. (see: http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/contact/bis-sif-eng.html).


All CANPASS private and corporate aircraft program flights are subject to verification, at any time, by customs. Requests for verification, and physical clearance on landing, may be generated by the telephone reporting centers or local customs officers. Best practice is to take the time to fully understand the assorted responsibilities and operational advantages of CANPASS programs and to be mindful to report all arrivals to Canada in the required manner.


If you have any questions about this article or about Canadian customs requirements, contact me at adamhartley@univ-wea.com.

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