Administrative and Operational Guidelines for Commercial Air-mode Carriers for the Processing of Prescribed Traveller Information Pursuant to the Requirements of the Canada Border Services Agency

Memorandum D2-5-11

ISSN 2369-2391

Ottawa, April 22, 2016

This document is also available in PDF (132 KB) [help with PDF files]

In Brief

  • This memorandum has been revised to provide clear policy direction to commercial air carriers and to reflect updates to administrative and operational guidelines pursuant to the implementation of the Interactive Advance Passenger Information (IAPI) initiative.

This memorandum outlines the Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) requirements and administrative policies regarding the provision of prescribed Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) information with respect to persons being transported to Canada by commercial air carriers.


Customs Act, section 107(1)

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, section 148(1)(d)

Guidelines and General Information


1. Under Canadian law, all commercial air carriers are required to provide the CBSA with prescribed information relating to all persons travelling to Canada aboard a commercial air carrier prior to, and at, the time of departure for Canada from a foreign point of origin. This information will be used by the CBSA to perform a risk assessment of passengers and crew while they are en route to Canada. Additionally, the information will be used to validate, prior to departure, that all incoming air travellers hold a valid prescribed document to enter Canada or are exempt from that requirement and that they are not considered to be prescribed persons. Failure to provide the prescribed information within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner may result in the assessment of a monetary penalty.

2. Subsection 107(1) of the Customs Act gives the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness the authority to require certain persons to provide information to the CBSA. This authority is delegated to specified officials of the CBSA. The information to be provided and the conditions relating to the provision are set out in the Passenger Information (Customs) Regulations (PICR).

3. An officer of the CBSA also has the authority to require the provision of the prescribed information under paragraph 148(1)(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). Section 269 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) sets out the persons who are required to provide the information, the information to be provided and the conditions for the provision of the information.

Accountability for Provision

4. The CBSA requires all commercial air carriers to provide the prescribed information under subsection 107(1) of the Customs Act, as described in the PICR, and the prescribed information under IRPA paragraph 148(1)(d), as described in section 269 of IRPR. As the prescribed information is the same under both Acts, one transmission of the prescribed information satisfies both obligations. The CBSA currently only collects API and PNR in the air mode. Therefore, the CBSA does not require commercial carriers in other travel modes (e.g., land, rail, or marine) to provide the prescribed information.

5. In accordance with established best practices set out in the World Customs Organization's Guidelines on Advance Passenger Information and the International Civil Aviation Organization's Guidelines on Passenger Name Record Data, the CBSA holds the operating carrier of each flight responsible for the provision of all the prescribed information.

6. The CBSA expects the operating carrier to work with relevant industry partners to ensure that all of the prescribed information is provided within the prescribed timeframes and in the prescribed manner.

Commercial Carrier

7. The terms "commercial carrier" and "commercial transporter" are defined in the PICR and IRPR, respectively. As the definitions are functionally identical, the term "carrier" is used throughout this document in place of both terms.

8. A commercial carrier is an operator of a commercial aircraft. A commercial aircraft is an aircraft, regardless of size, which is used in the commercial transportation of persons or goods, where the persons or goods are conveyed:

  • (a) from outside Canada to a place inside Canada; or
  • (b) from a place outside Canada in transit through Canada to another place outside Canada.

9. Examples of commercial carriers include operators of a scheduled air service, scheduled and unscheduled charters, air taxi and air commuter operations, and air cargo flights.

10. For greater certainty, the CBSA requires all commercial operators, including regional and local trans-border operators, to provide the prescribed information in the prescribed time and manner. This requirement applies regardless of the number of persons on board or the frequency of a commercial carrier's operations. Commercial carriers are expected to provide the prescribed information for flights even if no commercial passengers or goods are on board (for example, "ferry flights", which include both service and repositioning flights).

11. Operators of aircraft which do not fall within the above definition of "commercial aircraft" are not currently required to provide the prescribed information. Examples of non-commercial aircraft include those used for personal transportation or corporate/business aircraft, where there was no exchange of money for transportation. General aviation is addressed in greater detail in Memorandum D2-5-12, Telephone Reporting for General Aviation and Marine Pleasure Craft.

12. A state directly operating a flight (e.g., a military flight) is not required to provide the prescribed information. However, where a state has paid for a commercial charter flight, the commercial charter carrier is required to provide the information. Commercial charter carriers should work with their state clients to ensure that the prescribed information is provided to the CBSA.

Exceptional Circumstances/Occurrences

13. In certain situations, the CBSA may not require the provision of API/PNR. These situations include:

  • (a) diversions to Canada due to emergencies or weather; and,
  • (b) U.S. bound flights that are stopping in Canada for the sole purpose of refuelling, provided that the flight is en route to the United States (US) and that all foreign nationals on board possess the documents required for entry to the US.

14. The CBSA will not assess any administrative monetary penalties regarding the non-provision of API/PNR for such flights; however, it is required that an occurrence report is filed.

15. To avoid undue delays for flights undertaken for the sole purpose of emergency assistance, the CBSA requires that the carrier only provide the prescribed information in their possession prior to departure. Emergency assistance flights include:

  • (a) emergency medevac flights transporting a patient where the patient's life is in imminent danger and medical intervention is urgently required; and,
  • (b) flights carrying emergency response or disaster relief personnel, such as firefighters for the purpose of combatting severe wildfires.

16. In the case of emergency assistance flights, should all the prescribed information not be available at the prescribed times, the commercial carrier should report the occurrence and provide the missing information as soon as it is available. If these conditions are met, the CBSA will not assess any administrative monetary penalties for the late provision of API/PNR for these flights.

17. Commercial carriers transporting foreign nationals for the purpose of transiting through Canada are required to provide the prescribed information, including carriers who are participants of the Transit Without Visa (TWOV) and China Transit Program (CTP).

Prescribed Information

18. The law requires carriers to collect and provide specific prescribed information, as described in paragraphs 5(a)-(d) of PICR and in paragraphs 269(1)(a)-(d) of IRPR. The prescribed information, commonly referred to as API, to be provided about each person expected to be onboard the conveyance includes the following:

  • (a) their surname, first name and any middle names, their date of birth, their citizenship or nationality, and their gender;
  • (b) the type and number of each passport or other travel document that identifies them and the name of the country or entity that issued it;
  • (c) their reservation record locator number, if any; and
  • (d) the unique passenger reference assigned to them, if any, by the person who is required to provide information, or in the case of a crew member who has not been assigned one, notice of their status as a crew member.
  • Note: Further guidance regarding the API elements that are currently processed by the CBSA's program is published in the CBSA's Carrier Messaging Requirements (CMR) document which is provided to carriers upon registering with the program.

19. Additionally, pursuant to paragraph 5(e) of PICR and paragraph 269(1)(e) of IRPR, the law requires a commercial carrier to provide any information collected about each person whom it expects to carry to Canada that is in its reservation system or that of its agent. This information is commonly called PNR data and may include information aggregated from various sources (e.g., global distribution systems, airline reservation systems, and departure control systems).

20. Carriers are only required to provide the PNR elements they have collected for their business purposes that are included in the Appendix. Further guidance regarding the PNR elements that are currently processed by the CBSA's program is published in the CMR document.

21. The prescribed information must be provided about every person whom a carrier expects to carry and/or is carrying to Canada. This includes fare-paying passengers, all crew whether on-duty or off-duty (e.g., dead-heading or relief pilots), and any other person who is on board or expected to be on board the aircraft when it departs for Canada.

22. Pursuant to paragraph 5(f) of PICR and paragraph 269(1)(f) of IRPR, commercial carriers are also required to provide prescribed information detailing the commercial carrier's flight information. It is critically important that this prescribed contextual information is correct. Inaccuracies in flight number, arrival times, or ports of departure/arrival can cause the information to be processed incorrectly by the CBSA's systems. The CBSA expects carriers to update or correct this information without delay if they become aware that it is incomplete or inaccurate, as per Section 8 of PICR and subsection 269(6) of IRPR. The CBSA does not expect carriers to update scheduled departure times.


23. Carriers are required to provide the prescribed API information to the CBSA at the following intervals:

  • (a) for passengers: beginning at check-in, but no later than at the time of departure of the flight from the last place persons boarded the conveyance before arriving in Canada; and
  • (b) for crew members: no later than one hour before the time of departure to Canada.

24. Carriers are required to provide the prescribed PNR information at the time of departure of the flight from the last place persons boarded the conveyance before arriving in Canada. Only one submission of PNR information is required. The CBSA discourages carriers from providing the prescribed PNR information before the time of departure due to the risk of last minute changes which may result in inaccuracy of the information provided.

25. Carriers are required to provide a "close-out" message to the CBSA no later than 30 minutes after the time of departure to identify the unique passenger reference numbers of the passengers who are actually on board the flight bound for Canada.

Note: "Time of departure" is defined as the time of take-off from the last point of embarkation of persons before the conveyance arrives in Canada.

26. For multi-leg/progressive flights, the CBSA recognizes that commercial air carriers may provide API for all Canada-bound travellers expected to be on board the aircraft at their point of check-in. In these cases, the flight information must include the last foreign airport before arrival in Canada and the first airport of disembarkation in Canada, and must match the departure and arrival ports provided for all API and PNR submissions for the same flight.

Message Format and Transmission

27. Carriers and their industry partners can establish a direct connection with the CBSA's data acquisition system. Please note the CBSA collects an initial set-up and ongoing maintenance cost-recovery fee for all direct connections.

28. Alternatively, carriers and their industry partners may choose to use the CBSA's secure web portal, the Internet API Gateway (IAG). The IAG allows the provision of the prescribed information through a file upload or by using Interactive Data Entry (IDE) functionality.

29. The CBSA will also accept submissions of prescribed API data via e-mail as long as it meets the CBSA's technical parameters for provision.

30. Technical parameters for provision of the prescribed information through direct connection, the IAG or via e-mail are described in the CMR. The CMR is provided on request by the CBSA Carrier Account Support Team (CAST).

31. The CMR also details the CBSA's requirements for message content and formatting. The CBSA supports the industry-standard UN/EDIFACT (PAXLST), PNRGOV EDIFACT and CUSRES message formats, as well as CBSA-specific ones including the CBSA XML and the Comma-Separated Variable (CSV) formats.

32. The CBSA does not accept non-electronic transfers (e.g., faxes) of the prescribed information.

33. Carriers and their industry partners may make arrangements with a service provider to provide the information on their behalf. The CBSA maintains a list of service providers certified with the Agency for API and/or PNR data transmission which is available upon request.

Board/No-board Message

34. Upon receipt of API data for each passenger, CBSA systems will run automatic queries to determine if the passenger requires and possesses a document prescribed under IRPAor if they are exempt from that requirement. Based on this initial validation process, the CBSA will provide commercial carriers with an electronic board/no-board message.

35. On occasion, based upon a further review of a passenger's information, the CBSA may provide commercial carriers with a subsequent "unsolicited" message to override a previous board/no-board message.

36. In both scenarios, the CBSA is providing information to the commercial carrier, who is ultimately responsible for making the determination on whether or not to board the passenger.

37. Crew members who are assigned to active duty on an aircraft will be exempt from the board/no-board process. However, non-working crew members, including those travelling in a jump seat, dead-head crew, relief pilots, and cargo handlers, are to be considered as passengers and will be processed accordingly.

38. It is imperative that the CBSA have complete and accurate API information regarding travellers as that information may impact the processing of that traveller by both the CBSA and the commercial carrier. Technical specifications and timeframes for updating information are outlined in the CMR.

System Outages and Changes

39. Operating carriers, or their industry partners, who are planning system changes that might affect their information processing or transmission systems are expected to notify the CBSA at least six months before the changes are implemented. The CBSA will work with the carrier and their partners to ensure that there is no interruption in the provision of the prescribed information. System changes do not relieve the carrier of the obligation to provide the prescribed information.

40. Operating carriers are strongly encouraged to have a secondary method of transmission for the provision of the prescribed information in the case of a primary transmission outage. A system outage does not relieve the carrier of the obligation to provide the prescribed information. The CBSA System Outage Procedures document is available upon request.

41. The CBSA also expects operating carriers to provide corrected information where there is a change to contextual information (e.g., time of arrival or destination) due to a system outage.

New Carriers

42. Operating carriers who intend to commence service to Canada will need to:

  • (a) ensure that they obtain the proper licenses and certifications required for flying to Canada before they commence Canada-bound operations. For further information, carriers should contact the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) and Transport Canada (TC); and
  • (b) contact the CBSA at least six months before commencing flights in order to establish and test their arrangement for the provision of the prescribed information. New carriers are required to provide the prescribed information on their first arrival; no exception or phase-in period exists.

Notice to Travellers

43. The CBSA encourages carriers to inform their clients and personnel about the provision of prescribed information to the CBSA and about the CBSA's programs. Legislation in place in other jurisdictions may require carriers to provide notice to travellers when the carrier provides information to the CBSA. The CBSA recommends that a notice to travellers contains the following:

The CBSA is authorized to collect advance information under subsection 107(1) of the Customs Act and paragraph 148(1)(d) of the IRPA. The CBSA uses the prescribed information to identify persons who may pose a threat to Canada's safety or security. These persons may be subject to investigation, and may undergo closer questioning or examination upon arrival in Canada. The CBSA also uses the prescribed information to validate, prior to departure, that all incoming air travellers hold a prescribed document to enter Canada or are exempt from that requirement. Persons who do not meet the documentary requirements for entry to Canada may be refused boarding. All travellers to Canada may request a copy of the prescribed information provided about them by making a request in writing to the CBSA. Any traveller who believes that the prescribed information provided about them was incorrect may make a request in writing to the CBSA to have the information corrected. Any traveller may complain in writing to the CBSA if they believe that the CBSA has unfairly refused to provide access to the prescribed information provided about them, has not corrected the prescribed information provided about them, or has otherwise incorrectly handled the prescribed information provided about them. Travellers can obtain more information by consulting the Advance Passenger Information / Passenger Name Record (API/PNR) program.

44. The CBSA recommends that any travel notice be incorporated into websites or other documentation in a manner that would ensure that travellers researching or making reservations for flights to Canada are aware of the CBSA's API/PNR program.

Reporting for CBSA Inspection

45. The requirement to provide the prescribed information does not relieve carriers of their presentation and reporting obligations upon arrival in Canada, as per the Presentation of Persons Regulations. Procedures for access to airports may be found in Memorandum D2-5-1, Charter Access to Airports.

Penalty Information

46. Carriers who fail to comply with the requirement to provide the prescribed information in the prescribed manner and in the prescribed timeframes are subject to administrative monetary penalties under the Customs Act. The penalty is assessed on a per-flight basis.

47. Non-compliance occurs when a commercial carrier fails to provide information as stipulated in PICR, on persons (passengers and crew) on board a conveyance within the prescribed timeframes. Where the CBSA determines that the carrier made all efforts to provide the prescribed information, a zero-dollar penalty may be assessed.

48. The CBSA considers that the prescribed information has been provided if the information is:

  • (a) complete: All the listed elements of the prescribed data are collected and provided. Where reservation information is collected about any person on board, it is provided.
  • (b) accurate: The prescribed information correctly describes the traveller. The CBSA expects carriers to verify travel documents and correct any errors in the system. Carriers are not responsible for errors made by governments in the issuance of documents.
  • (c) timely: The CBSA requires sufficient time to process the prescribed information for the program purposes identified above. The information is considered "timely" if it is received, as follows:
    • (i) for passengers: at or before the time of departure, as reported to the CBSA by air traffic control authorities, of the aircraft on the leg that will end in Canada.
    • (ii) for crew members, if it is submitted not later than one hour before the time of departure to Canada.
    • (iii) for the close-out message identifying all passengers aboard, if it is submitted not later than thirty minutes after the time of departure.
  • (d) readable: the information must be provided in an approved format that can be processed by CBSA systems, as per the requirements detailed within the CMR.
  • Note: The CBSA will communicate with carriers to resolve issues with formatting, the accuracy of contextual data, or other issues which affect the processing of the data.

49. Memorandum D22-1-1 Administrative Monetary Penalty System describes how the CBSA enforces compliance with the Customs Act and related regulations. The details of the administrative monetary penalties related to the provision of the prescribed information are published in the CBSA Master Penalty Document.

50. It is recommended that commercial carriers monitor all messages from the CBSA. Failure to receive an acknowledgment or flight summary message, a board/no-board message, or the receipt of an error message is indicative of a problem with the data transmission or the quality of the data.

51. The penalties described within this memorandum are separate from the administration fees which may be levied on commercial carriers related to the carriage of certain categories of inadmissible foreign nationals to Canada. Administration fees are described in greater detail in the CBSA's Guide for Transporters.

Contact Information

52. The CBSA's Carrier Account Support Team (CAST) is the primary point of contact for program-specific inquiries from carriers.

1-866-427-4767 (toll free in North America) for immediate assistance between 8:00 and 16:00 ET weekdays only.
1-613-219-8452 (long-distance charges may apply) for immediate assistance from 16:00 to 8:00 ET weekdays, weekends and Canadian holidays.

E-mail: or

Additional Information

53. For more information, within Canada call the Border Information Service at 1-800-461-9999. From outside Canada call 204-983-3500 or 506-636-5064. Long distance charges will apply. Agents are available Monday to Friday (08:00 – 16:00 local time/except holidays). TTY is also available within Canada: 1-866-335-3237.


Passenger Name Record (PNR) Data Elements

Data Element Explanation
Passenger Name Record (PNR) locator code File locator number;
Booking reference;
Reservation tracking number.
Date of reservation The date the reservation (booking) was created with the commercial carrier, travel agency, and/or travel agent.
Dates of intended travel The entire itinerary, including all ticketed, reserved and travelled dates and departure and arrival points for all flight segments related to the passenger.
Passenger name Surname, first name, middle name or initial.
Other names on PNR Additional passenger names that are affiliated with the main passenger name on the reservation list. For example, if a family makes a reservation, all members should be included on the same Passenger Name Record.
All forms of payment information Cash, cheque, government travel request (GTR) or a credit card or another ticket including non-revenue payment (i.e., frequent flyer points rewards).
Billing address Information related to the billing and delivery addresses where this information (i.e., invoice) will be sent. The delivery address is the address where any travel documents (i.e., itinerary) will be sent.
Contact telephone numbers All telephone numbers listed within the PNR.
All travel itinerary for specific PNR Alternate routing unknown (ARNK segments);
Segments Airport Code(s) such as connectors – all inbound, outbound and onward connection details, cancelled segments, layover days, flown segments, flight information, flight departure date, board point, arrival port, open segments, original point of embarkation, destination city, itinerary cities and place of ticket purchase, non-air segments;
Layout data such as duration and location.
Frequent flyer information All frequent flyer information collected (i.e., frequent flyer number).
Travel agency Travel agency IATA number;
Agent pseudo city codes as defined by the corresponding reservation system. This code uniquely identifies the agency within the reservation system. Pseudo city is a simulated code to identify or map an airport to a city.
Travel agent Name and contact details.
Split/divided PNR information Should be considered the same as regular PNR, except there would be more historical data covering all the previous related PNRs.
Ticketing information Exchange ticket;
Conjunction ticket;
Re-issued ticket;
E-ticket information;
Open ended ticket;
One-way ticket.
Special traveling considerations such as employee pass, buddy pass and parental passes;
Date of ticket issue/purchase, selling class of travel, issue city, ticket number, ticket issue city, Automated Fare Quote (ATFQ) fields.
Ticket number The unique combination of number and/or letter assigned to each individual ticket. Automatically generated when a new ticket is created.
Seat number The seat number or location, or a cabin number or location, assigned to the passenger by the carrier at check-in or upon boarding the conveyance (booked and flown).
Date of ticket issuance PNR creation date;
Booking date;
Reservation date;
Departure date;
Arrival date;
PNR first travel date;
PNR last modification date;
Ticket issue date;
First intended travel date;
Date of first arrival.
No show information Industry term referring to a traveller who made a reservation but did not check-in.
Go show information Industry term referring to a traveller who purchased a ticket immediately before take-off without having made a reservation beforehand.
Bag tag numbers (baggage information) Number of bags;
Bag tag number(s);
Bag weight(s);
All pooled baggage information, head of pool, number of bags in pool, bag carrier code, bag status;
Bag destination/off-load point.
Seat information Class of service;
Seat assignment;
Seating preference.
One-way tickets Ticket purchased is one-way only.
Any collected Advance Passenger Information Passenger name (surname, first name, middle name or initial);
Date of birth;
All travel document type(s);
All travel document number(s) (i.e., passport or visa number);
All travel document countries of issuance.
Standby Passenger status, i.e., waiting for seat availability Departure Control System (DCS).
Check-in information Check-in security number;
Check-in agent identification;
Check-in time;
Check-in status;
Boarding number;
Boarding indicator;
Confirmation status;
Check-in order.

*Please note that the comprehensive list of data elements is detailed in each of the format sections of the CMR.


Issuing office:
Program and Policy Management Division
Traveller Programs Directorate
Programs Branch
Headquarters file:
Other references:
Superseded memorandum D:
D2-5-11 dated
Date modified: