Canadian Border Agency Can Now Scan Personal Information in Advance

Canada is taking steps to making crossing the border into the U.S. as painless as possible.

The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced today that radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is now fully operational at several land points of entry across the country.

When entering or exiting the country, there will be special RFID lanes equipped with a reader to capture tag numbers in certain travel documents. Those could include electronic Canadian Permanent Resident cards; Enhanced Driver’s Licenses from B.C., Manitoba and Ontario; Enhanced Identification Cars from B.C. and Manitoba; and NEXUS/FAST cards.

If travellers are carrying these RFID-enabled documents, the reader will be able to pick up and recognize the tag as a vehicle approaches a border services booth. The RFID tag number will retrieve traveller information from secure databases, assess for risk and then display the information on the border services officer’s screen. This will save the officer a lot of time usually spent manually inputting the information into the system.

“Adding radio frequency identification technology to the CBSA’s suite of tools will help streamline traveller processing and improve border security measures,” says Ralph Goodale, the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness. “It is yet another way in which we are making use of technology to help border services officers ensure the border is efficient and secure.”

Two regular traveller lanes have been equipped with RFID technology at each of the following points of entry: in British Columbia, the Douglas, Pacific Highway and Aldergrove border crossings; in Manitoba, the Emerson border crossing; in Ontario, border crossings at Lansdowne, Ambassador Bridge (Windsor), Peace Bridge (Fort Erie), Queenston Bridge (Niagara), and Rainbow Bridge (Niagara). Don’t be surprised if the officer knows the names of everyone in the car as it pulls up to these crossing areas.

RFID technology uses electromagnetic fields to transfer data. Regular travellers will still be able to use the RFID-enables lanes, even without some of the specially marked documents listed above. There is no personal information stored on the RFID chip itself either. NEXUS and FAST cards operated a little like RFID technology before this announcement—they allowed pre-approved low-risk travellers to choose select entry points and cross the border much quicker than normal.

In the coming months, the CBSA will be able to recognize certain RFID-enabled travel documents from the U.S. as well.