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Examining digital devices at the Canadian border

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Digital devices

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers are allowed to examine all goods you have with you when you cross the border. This means that just like your luggage, our officers can examine your cell phones, tablets, laptops and any other digital device you are carrying.

A digital device is defined as any device that is capable of storing digital data, such as:

Why we examine digital devices

The CBSA has always had a policy on examination of goods. To provide greater certainty, the Agency now has a dedicated policy on examination of digital devices at ports of entry.

CBSA officers do not always examine digital devices. Our policy is to examine a device only if we think we will find evidence on it that border laws have been broken.

Reasons an officer might examine your digital device(s) include concerns regarding your:

What to expect if we examine your digital device

A CBSA officer will start with some questions before examining your digital device. To examine the digital device, the officer will first ask for the password which will be written down on a piece of paper. You are obligated to provide your password when asked.

Note Failure to grant access to your digital device may result in the detention of that device under section 101 of the Customs Act, or seizure of the device under subsection 140 (1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The officer should turn your device on airplane mode to disable its ability to send and receive information. This ensures they can only access information stored on the device.

They will not have access to:

The officer will usually examine your device in your presence, unless there are operational considerations that make it inappropriate to do so.

Solicitor-client privileged information

The CBSA is committed to respecting privacy rights while protecting the safety and security of the Canadian border. If a BSO encounters content marked as solicitor-client privilege, the officer must cease inspecting that document. If there are concerns about the legitimacy of solicitor-client privilege, the device can be set aside for a court to make a determination of the contents.

Examining a digital device: What happens next

If no evidence of an infraction (that is, proof that you may be contravening a law) is found, the officer will return your digital device to you, along with your password. You will then be on your way.

If evidence of an infraction is found, the officer may seize your device. If the officer seizes or detains your device, they will explain the process and next steps to you, including your right to contest the seizure.

If the CBSA cannot absolutely determine that the device's content is admissible at the port of entry, we may detain the device for further examination.

This may take up to 30 calendar days from the date of detention. Once completed, we will return your device, provided we do not find evidence of an infraction. If we do find evidence, we may seize your device.

The CBSA will contact you to arrange the return of your digital device.

The CBSA may seize your device if we determine its contents contain evidence of a contravention of Canadian laws. For example, if the device contains evidence of a crime, contraband or other prohibited or restricted goods, we may seize it.

If this happens, we will notify you about the seizure. We will then explain your options to contest it through the CBSA Recourse Office.

Contesting a seizure

If you wish to file an objection to a CBSA enforcement action, you must file a request for review within 90 days after the date of the enforcement action was taken. Requests for review may be submitted online at: /recourse-recours/menu-eng.html.

Safeguarding Canadians

Whether visiting or returning to Canada, you may be subject to an examination by a CBSA officer to determine your admissibility. This includes any goods or vehicle you bring across the border.

Our officers perform regular examinations to ensure compliance with Canadian laws and regulations, including customs, immigration, and food, plants and animal legislation. If you are subject to an examination, you can expect to be treated in a courteous, dignified, and professional manner.

An examination can be as simple as a few questions to verify your declaration or determine your admissibility to Canada, but it can also include:


The CBSA examines travellers’ digital devices when there are concerns that they may contain a contravention or evidence of a contravention of Canadian border laws. Digital device examinations are not conducted as a matter of course, and they are highly effective in uncovering prohibited and harmful contraband.

The CBSA has been tracking the frequency of digital device examinations since . From , until , only 0.012% of all travellers who were processed at the border had their digital devices examined.

Of these examinations, 37.3% resulted in the detection of a customs or immigration-related contravention. These contraventions ranged from evidence of money laundering, the discovery of prohibited goods that pose a threat to public safety (e.g., child pornography or obscenity), and undervalued or undeclared goods.

The following tables show the number of digital device examinations conducted by the CBSA each month. These statistics are updated on a bi-annual basis. In , the number of digital device examinations decreased, corresponding to the reduced traveller volume due to COVID-19 border measures. Nearing the end of 2021, traveller volumes began to steadily increase with the easing of COVID-19 border restrictions.

From to :

Monthly reports

Calendar year 2022
Month Travellers processed at the border Travellers who had a digital device examined Resultant examinations
June 5,657,318 109 45
May 5,210,587 110 56
April 4,619,699 97 39
March 3,447,754 110 39
February 2,076,958 135 38
January 2,109,291 132 57
Calendar year 2021
Month Travellers processed at the border Travellers who had a digital device examined Resultant examinations
December 3,036,390 125 49
November 2,351,764 149 43
October 2,152,088 167 51
September 2,068,895 123 46
August 2,064,180 123 38
July 1,346,570 114 40
June 1,090,717 118 34
May 1,008,148 190 70
April 981,064 153 39
March 977,385 152 25
February 860,326 146 28
January 1,037,282 234 39
Calendar year 2020
Month Travellers processed at the border Travellers who had a digital device examined Resultant examinations
December 1,908,411 189 52
November 947,034 152 29
October 1,021,897 206 44
September 1,019,900 185 37
August 1,040,600 216 40
July 965,098 180 38
June 850,846 132 24
May 648,007 131 29
April 581,033 70 10
March 4,589,261 812 214
February 6,515,629 1,340 378
January 6,624,860 561 200
Calendar year 2019
Month Travellers processed at the border Travellers who had a digital device examined Resultant examinations
December 7,166,500 731 309
November 6,527,587 641 301
October 7,564,455 666 258
September 8,594,557 893 410
August 11,341,612 813 424
July 10,682,022 1,087 493
June 8,955,396 915 396
May 8,323,796 933 426
April 7,754,147 1,161 444
March 7,951,855 1,100 446
February 6,094,673 1,104 455
January 6,488,510 1,013 372
Calendar year 2018
Month Travellers processed at the border Travellers who had a digital device examined Resultant examinations
December 7,052,067 1,097 389
November 6,422,436 921 344
October 7,476,724 1,465 581
September 8,535,608 1,048 469
August 11,045,671 1,103 466
July 10,581,455 1,293 468
June 8,977,814 1,139 493
May 8,302,382 1,168 471
April 7,591,599 1,583 571
March 8,004,829 988 376
February 6,295,015 1,149 393
January 6,608,788 1,359 359
Calendar year 2017
Month Travellers processed at the border Travellers who had a digital device examined Resultant examinations
December 6,970,113 1,195 446
November 6,512,916 840 300

Note Travelling or returning to Canada? Cross the border smoothly whether arriving by air, land or boat.

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