Getting to a border crossing
In certain situations, you can go to a land-based port of entry into Canada to apply for documents from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). IRCC doesn’t actually recommend doing this. Instead, it encourages foreign nationals in Canada to apply online through the secure IRCC account.
Applying for an immigration document at the border comes with some benefits. For example, you can get the document on the same day. However, it may be more advantageous to apply online, depending on your situation. For example, if you are a student who has just finished their studies and is eligible for a 3-year post-graduation work permit, you will be able to work longer in Canada if you apply online. This is because, if you meet all the requirements, you will be able to work during the application period, in addition to the 3 years the work permit you have applied for gives you. Those requirements include having to have a valid study permit when you apply: See the section on Right to work after completing your studies and before getting a post graduation work permit for full details. Before making the decision to apply for an immigration document at a border crossing, take the time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of doing this. Here are some of the disadvantages:
- You may not be allowed into the United States (see “How it works at the border” for more details)
- The Canada Border Services Agency may not process your application (for example, some border crossings have reduced hours for processing these kinds of applications—see “Ports of entry into Canada”)
- You have to be able to communicate clearly in English with U.S. customs officials
You can apply for certain work permits at a land border crossing if you are visa-exempt for entering Canada. Visa-exempt individuals include:
- Travellers who don’t need a visa and need only an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada
- People with valid study or work permits who would normally need a visa to enter Canada but are exempt because they are returning to Canada after staying in only the United States
The types of work permits that you can apply for include, but aren’t limited to, the following:
- Post-graduation work permit
- Co-op work permit (to do a mandatory internship through your study program)
- Co-op (Internship) work permit through International Experience Canada (IEC) (IMPORTANT: You must get a work permit approval from IRCC in advance)
- Open work permit for spouses of international students
Important: Only U.S. citizens, permanent residents of the U.S., and residents of Greenland and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon can apply for a study permit at a port of entry into Canada without needing approval beforehand. If you don’t fall into these groups, do not go to a Canadian port of entry to apply for a study permit or an amendment to your study permit.
It is preferable to cross the border by car rather than on foot. If you are carpooling, we recommend that you travel with trustworthy people that you know, since the status and situation of other travellers may influence your journey.
Armstrong border crossing
999, Highway 173
The closest border crossing to Québec City is the Armstrong border crossing. Immigration services are available 7 days a week. However, the Canadian border services officer may have to contact people from other organizations like IRCC to verify information. So, to make things go as smoothly as possible, we advise you to go there during normal working hours (Monday to Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.) and ideally in the morning because it can sometimes take a few hours to clear U.S. and Canadian customs.
You can get there by car. The 300km trip there and back will take you about 4 hours. If you need to rent a car, make sure you are allowed to enter a different country with the rental car. (The main rental companies are Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and Sauvageau.)
You can get there with ridesharing through sites like www.covoiturage.ca, www.poparide.com and www.amigoexpress.com (in French only) that connect you with other people who want to get to the same place. You can specify Armstrong or Saint-Théophile as your destination. (Saint-Théophile is the name of the village closest to the border on the Canadian side).
You can also get there by taking a bus and then a taxi. The bus company Autobus Breton (in French only) operates a bus service from Sainte-Foy to Saint-Georges-de-Beauce twice a day. A round-trip ticket at the student rate is approximately $40. The bus terminal in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce is about 45km from the border crossing. From Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, take a taxi to get to the border. Call the taxi company Taxi du Pont at 418-227-7777. Ask the driver to wait for you at the border crossing. The whole taxi ride should cost you about $100. Important: You will have to spend a night in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce and come back the next day.
These two border crossings are the closest to Montréal. They process these types of applications only during specific times. We advise you to arrive for when they open. However, depending on how many people are crossing, even if you arrive within those hours, your application may not be processed.
Stanstead border crossing
This border crossing is the closest to Sherbrooke. Immigration services are also available here.
You have to bring with you all the documents you need to support your application. The following list is for information purposes only and is not exhaustive. You may be asked to provide other documents. We advise you to bring your computer or cell phone with you so you can access other documents and information if needed.
- Current study or work permit: Make a digital and/or paper copy in advance in case the officer processing your application keeps the old document.
- For a post-graduation work permit application: See the list of documents required for online applications under the “Post-graduation work permit” section of the Applying for post-graduation work permit page. The “Application to Change Conditions, Extend my Stay or Remain in Canada as a Worker [IMM 5710]” form is not required.
- For a co-op work permit application: See the list of documents required for online co-op work permit applications under the “Mandatory internship” section of the Doing an internship for credit as part of your Université Laval study program page. The “Application to Change Conditions, Extend my Stay or Remain in Canada as a Worker [IMM 5710]” form is not required.
- Debit card, credit card, or cash to pay for your application.
To meet a Canadian border services officer at a land-based port of entry between Canada and the United States, you first have to leave Canada and enter the United States and then go back to the Canadian border crossing.
Entering the United States
If you have a valid U.S. visa or an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), the customs officer will let you enter the U.S. and you can then turn back toward the Canadian border crossing. If you are from a country that is part of the Visa Waiver program and you don’t have an ESTA, you have to fill out the I-94W form and pay the necessary fees.
Take the time to explain to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent that you want to “flagpole” back into Canada. Flagpoling is when you turn around back into Canada after entering the U.S. so you can get a Canadian immigration document. These agents generally speak only English, so be prepared to communicate with them in English.
It is better if you have the authorization needed to enter the United States. If you aren’t allowed to enter the United States, the following two scenarios may occur. In both cases, you should be able to turn back toward Canada to apply for the work permit you want.
- Permission to withdraw your request to enter the United States: This means you are simply retracting your request to enter the United States. Your request to enter isn’t being denied.
- Entry into the United States denied: Take note of this as you will need to explain why you were denied entry in any future immigration application. You will have to explain that you were denied entry because you were “flagpoling” back into Canada so you could apply for a Canadian immigration document. This should have no further consequences.
Coming back into Canada
If you have never given your biometrics for a Canadian visa or permit application or if your biometrics are no longer valid, you will have to give them when you apply for your work permit at the border. There is an $85 biometric collection service fee. That is in addition to the fee for the work permit you are applying for.
If you already have an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), a new eTA will be issued automatically and will cancel your old one when a new permit is issued. It will also work like this at the border. So, after your work permit is issued, take the time to ask the Canadian border services officer what your new eTA’s number and expiry date are (if possible).
When you get your new document, take the time to check it and make sure that all the information on it is correct. If there is an error, go back to an officer and try to have the information changed.
Tips and advice
- Take the time to explain to the Canadian and U.S. customs officers why you are doing what you are doing and what your intentions are.
- If someone is coming with you who can’t legally enter the United States, ask that person to wait for you in the parking lot on the Canadian side just before the border crossing.
The Immigration section of this website is intended to provide general information on current procedures, which may change at any time without notice. The laws and regulations in force in Québec and Canada, as well as the websites of Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration [Québec’s ministry of immigration, francisation, and integration] (MIFI) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), take precedence over this page.
Last updated on: 2023-06-19