Collection of passenger information
Mode of transmission

On September 30 2016 changes relating to the government's collection of information regarding all passengers and crews aboard commercial air carriers destined for Canada will come into effect.

Collection of passenger information

Over the past few months the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has been working with the more than 200 foreign air carriers that operate in Canada to transition them to the Interactive Advance Passenger Information Initiative (IAPI). This regime replaces the Advance Passenger Information/Passenger Name Record Programme (API/PNR).

Air carriers must 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 the API/PNR and the IAPI, carriers must provide the CBSA with all advance passenger information (API) no later than:

  • one hour before the time of departure for crew members; and
  • the time of departure for passengers.

API includes each passenger's:

  • surname, first name and 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; and
  • 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 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 each passenger's:

  • surname, first name and any middle names;
  • reservation record locator number;
  • date of reservation and date of ticket issuance;
  • itinerary;
  • loyalty programme information;
  • contact information;
  • billing and payment information;
  • code share information;
  • ticketing information, including ticket number, automated ticket fare quote and whether a one-way ticket was purchased; and
  • baggage information.

Although under the API/PNR PNR data had to be transmitted only no later than the time of departure, under the new IAPI it must be transmitted at least 72 hours before 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 before departure must be transmitted no later than 24 hours before departure. and any addition or change that is made more than eight hours but less than 24 hours before 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 no later than the time of departure.

Mode of transmission

The requirements that the CBSA be provided with PNR data well in advance of departure and that this information be updated as changes are made require a more interactive transmission system. Jurisdictions such as 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 Canadian and US governments, concluded in 2011. In particular, Canada committed to mirror US pre-screening programmes introduced 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 before 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 or require earlier transmission of PNR data are also said to "facilitate faster clearance of international passengers and [to] reduce examination time upon arrival".

The IAPI comes into full force at the end of September, at which time all carriers must have fully transitioned to the new system. The transition includes a period of testing the method of transmitting the 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 data 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. The options include:

  • the CBSA's own communication infrastructure;
  • a file upload process to the CBSA's Internet API Gateway; or
  • email.

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

While the CBSA would no doubt prefer all information for a given flight to come from one source, this is often not possible. For example, where 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 advance passenger information data.


The CBSA appears to recognise that different data transmission configurations and methods 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 2016. If a carrier is not transitioned by that time, its data may be rejected.

For further information on this topic please contact Carlos P Martins or Andrew W Macdonald at Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn LLP by telephone (+1 416 982 3800) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn website can be accessed at