National Airport Courtesy Program

Circular Note NO. XDV-0421 of July 15, 2015

The Office of Protocol, Official Visits Division, National Airport Courtesies Program is responsible for facilitating Airport Courtesies for VIPs arriving and travelling within Canada on commercial and dedicated flights. In general, visitors at the level of a Deputy Minister and above travelling on official business are eligible for this service. For a full list of eligible dignitaries, see Officials Eligible for Airport Courtesies.

These courtesies are available in the major airports of Canada and may include: a Courtesy or Expedited Clearance from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) (see Definitions) on commercial and dedicated arrivals, and on commercial arrivals only: assistance and escort on arrival and departure where available; security screening exemption from Transport Canada if the VIP qualifies, access for up to two greeters in the Customs Hall and/or at the domestic gate where available and access to the Canada Reception Centre (CRC) Terminal Lounge, at the MacDonald-Cartier International Airport when travelling to and from Ottawa. For more information about the CRC, including Hangar 11, see Canada Reception Centre.

1. Service Standards

In order to facilitate Airport Courtesies, the Department must receive a written request by diplomatic note at least 72 hours in advance of the arrival of the visitor. The request must state the VIP’s reason for travelling to Canada and must contain all information in Requirements for Airport Courtesies. As Protocol must liaise with Other Government Departments and partner agencies, failure to submit a request along with all required information within the specified time period could result in inability to access courtesies.

2. Entry Requirements

It should be noted that the National Airport Courtesies Program in no way exempts visitors from Canadian visa requirements. A complete list of countries whose citizens require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) to visit Canada can be found at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp. For further information regarding specific TRV requirements, visitors should consult the website of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) at www.cic.gc.ca or the nearest Canadian visa office abroad. It is the responsibility of the traveller to ensure that he/she meets Canadian entry requirements.

3. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Definitions for Border Formalities

Courtesy Clearance is in effect, the streamlining of CBSA formalities in which the Primary and Secondary inspections are amalgamated to ensure the safe and timely passage of the individual and/or delegation. Passports and Customs Declaration Cards (E-311) must still be presented. This may be done collectively by a representative of the delegation or individually. This process, in no way, revokes the various laws pertaining to prohibited, restricted or controlled goods (e.g., narcotics, firearms, food, plant and animal products including live animals).

Expedited Clearance is the facilitation of CBSA formalities in which the primary questioning is performed in an expeditious manner. If necessary, a secondary examination will be conducted. Passports and Customs Declarations Cards (E-311) must be presented individually to Customs.

Greeting Privileges is permission granted by the CBSA at the port of entry to enter the baggage area of the Customs Hall to greet individuals. Please see appendix for more information.

4. Security Screening

Security screening at Canadian airports is the responsibility of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and is subject to requirements implemented by Transport Canada. Eligibility for security screening exemption is determined by Transport Canada. The list of dignitaries eligible for security screening exemption can be found in Officials Eligible for Airport Courtesies. All other travellers must be screened before boarding domestic and international flights. At the screening checkpoint, passengers always have the option of requesting to be screened in a private room or stall, away from view of other passengers.

Protocol must follow all airport rules and regulations and obey all Transport Canada laws. All security requirements for greeters to be in secure areas must be met.

5. VIP lounges outside of the Nation’s Capital

The only lounge in Canada to which the Office of Protocol may grant access is the CRC. All other lounges in Canadian airports are privately owned commercial lounges, to which access is dependent on airline and class of ticket held by the passenger. The Office of Protocol has no ability to grant access to these lounges, whether to passengers or farewell parties.

6. Technical Stops in Canada

Technical stops are short stops of dedicated aircraft, usually made for the purpose of refuelling. All persons from countries whose citizens require a visa when travelling to Canada must hold a valid Canadian temporary resident visa when entering or landing in Canadian territory for any reason, including for brief refuelling stops. The only exception to this requirement would be in cases where travellers are seeking to enter and remain in Canada solely to transit through Canada as a passenger on a flight stopping in Canada for the sole purpose of refuelling and:

  • they are in possession of a valid visa to enter the United States and their flight is bound for the United States; or
  • they were previously lawfully admitted to the United States and their flight originated in the United States.

Courtesy Clearances for high level visitors entering Canada during refuelling stops continue to be prepared in the usual manner. See Requirements for Airport Courtesies.

In almost all cases, a private aircraft cannot land at a commercial terminal but must land at a Fixed Base Operator (FBO). These arrangements must be coordinated by the requesting state and the name and address of the FBO provided to the Department by the foreign mission.

Note: permission for overflight clearance must be arranged in advance with the Trade Policy Services Division: tel: 613-944-0487 fax: 613-944-0058 e-mail: tms@international.gc.ca

7. Officials Eligible for Airport Courtesies

The following is a list of VIPs entitled to receive a courtesy clearance from the Canada Border Services Agency and security screening exemption from Transport Canada:

Foreign Head of State

  • King and/or Queen
  • President
  • Deputy Head of State (Vice-President)
  • Constitutional equivalent of above

Foreign Head of Government

  • Prime Minister
  • Governor General
  • Constitutional equivalent of above
  • Crown Prince/Princess

Ministers of Foreign Governments

  • Deputy Head of Government (Deputy Prime Minister)
  • Ministers of National Cabinet Rank

Guest of the Government

  • Speakers of Parliament (Upper and Lower House)
  • Chief Justice
  • Ambassador/High Commissioner-designate (first arrival in/final departure from Canada)
  • ICAO Permanent Representative

Heads of International Organizations

  • Secretary-General of the United Nations
  • Secretary General of La Francophonie
  • Secretary-General of the Commonwealth
  • Secretary General of the Organization of American States
  • Director-General of the World Trade Organization
  • Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Security screening exemption extends to accompanying immediate family members of all of the above but not to accompanying delegation members.

The following is a list of VIPs entitled to receive a courtesy clearance from the Canada Border Services Agency

  • Spouse of the Head of State (when not accompanying the Head of State)
  • Spouse of the Head of Government (when not accompanying the Head of Government)
  • Heads of International Organizations invited by the Prime Minister or Federal Ministers
  • Special guests of the Canadian government and religious leaders

The following list provides some examples of VIPs entitled to receive an expedited clearance from the Canada Border Services Agency:

  • State Governors/Provincial Premiers
  • Former Foreign Heads of State/Government
  • Central Bank Governors
  • Deputy/Vice Ministers
  • Military personnel of the rank of Major General and above

8. Requirements for Airport Courtesies

a) A list of all delegation members including the following information for each member:

  • full name
  • title
  • date of birth
  • passport number
  • passport expiry date
  • nationality of passport
  • Canadian entry visa number if applicable

b) Full itinerary including:

  • arrival date
  • arrival time
  • port of entry
  • flight number
  • departure date
  • departure time
  • port of departure
  • flight number
  • the same for any other travel within Canada (if not by plane simply indicate mode)

c) Names and mobile phone numbers for up to 2 greeters

d) Name and number of a general contact person for the visit

e) Reason for visiting Canada

In the case of dedicated aircraft (i.e. charter, private, military, or government), the following additional information is required:

  • aircraft type
  • registration number
  • call sign
  • name and address of the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at which the plane will be landing
  • as above list of delegation members with titles and passport and visa information
  • list of crew members with names, titles, dates of birth, and passport numbers and expiry dates
  • permission for overflight clearance must be arranged in advance with the Trade Policy Services Division: tel: 613-944-0487 fax: 613-944-0058 e-mail: tms@international.gc.ca

Important for ALL Arrivals (commercial flights and dedicated aircraft)

  • all passengers and crew must arrive with completed Customs Declaration Form (E311)
  • all persons carrying currency  CDN $10,000 and over must complete a Customs Cross-Border Currency and Money Instruments Report Forms (E667B and E668)

In addition, please advise of:

  • security concerns
  • special equipment or food that might be brought into Canada on arrival
  • health or mobility concerns (wheelchairs at airports etc)

9. Canada Reception Centres

The Office of Protocol manages the Canada Reception Centres on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Development, to welcome Foreign Dignitaries to Ottawa. There are two sites at the Ottawa MacDonald Cartier International Airport: Hangar 11 for dedicated aircraft and the Airport Lounge for commercial travel.

Hangar 11

The Canada Reception Centre (CRC) Hangar 11 welcomes Guests of the Government of Canada and other Dignitaries travelling on dedicated aircraft to and from the Nation’s Capital. Reservations for the use of this facility are made by the Official Visits Division of the Office of Protocol and must be requested no less than 24 hours prior to the arrival/departure.

Airport Lounge

The Canada Reception Centre (CRC) Airport Lounge welcomes Guests of the Government of Canada, Heads of Mission and other Dignitaries travelling on commercial aircraft to and from the National’s Capital. The CRC Airport Lounge offers a comfortable setting with telephone, fax and internet capability as well as light snacks and refreshments (non-alcoholic).

The Department is pleased to extend the use of the CRC Airport Lounges to the following:

Guests Eligible for Airport Courtesies

Individuals or groups entitled to Airport Courtesies (which includes Heads of Diplomatic Missions on their first arrival in Canada) are eligible to use the CRC Lounge once authorized by the Office of Protocol. Arrangements will be made by the National Airport Courtesy Program provided that all required information has been received within the stipulated time frame.

Heads of Diplomatic Missions on Departure from Ottawa for Official Travel

The CRC is available to the Head of Mission when departing from Ottawa on official business. Reservation of the CRC Airport Lounge weekdays must be made by fax or e-mail before 1200 hours, the day prior to departure. Use of the CRC Airport Lounge during week-ends requires notice by 1200 hours on Friday.

The CRC is available to the Head of Mission when he/she has been granted Greeting Privileges by CBSA to greet an important visitor who does not qualify for an expedited clearance.

As the Ambassador or High Commissioner Designate is entitled to a Courtesy Clearance on first arrival in Canada, the Airport Lounge may be used to greet him/her on arrival however the CRC is not available for subsequent arrivals in in Ottawa. The Office of Protocol reserves the right to limit the number of greeters in the lounge for the Head of Mission’s first arrival/final departure.

The lounge is not made available to meet family members, personal guests, private sector visitors, delegation members travelling separately from the Head of Delegation or for Heads of Missions on departure from Ottawa for personal travel.

Parking at the MacDonald-Cartier International Terminal

It should be noted that parking is strictly prohibited for all vehicles along the curb-side facilities at both the Arrivals and Departures levels at the Ottawa Airport. This area may only be used for the temporary loading and unloading of passengers and luggage EXCEPT in those cases where, for the greeting and farewell of a VIP notified to the National Airport Courtesy Program of the Office of Protocol, an accompanying driver has been issued with a parking pass by Canada Reception Centre staff. These passes are issued in very limited number and will only be available for the use of the principle mission involved. All other vehicles improperly parked in this area will be ticketed according to the posted regulations. Additional vehicles accompanying the responsible head of mission must be parked in the designated diplomatic parking area on P1, or, in the event that this area is full, in an appropriate space elsewhere in the Ottawa Airport’s parking facility at the expense of the mission.

10. What if a Visitor does not qualify for Airport Courtesies?

Instructions for Requesting “Greeting Only Privileges” from the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA)

Many high level visitors do not qualify for a Courtesy or Expedited clearance. Examples are Parliamentarians, Senators, Assistant Deputy Ministers, Directors General. In these cases, the Office of Protocol is not involved, however, the Embassy or High Commission has the option of requesting Greeting Privileges directly from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at the airport of first arrival. Please note that Greeting Privileges cannot be granted for a domestic arrival.

In order to request Greeting Privileges, the mission must fax the following information in a letter on Embassy/Consulate letterhead to the CBSA at the airport of first arrival:

  • the guest's name, title and who he is travelling with
  • arrival date, time and airport terminal, airline and flight number
  • names and titles of up to two greeters and at least one cellular phone number
  • the name and contact information of the originator

CBSA requires the information at least 24 hours in advance and approval is contingent on operational requirements. The request will be reviewed upon receipt and the sender will be contacted and advised of the status of their request. If approved, instructions on where/when the greeters should present themselves in order to access the baggage hall will be provided. Please note that greeting privileges allow up to two greeters to enter the baggage hall but do not accord any special privileges to the guest.

Greeting Privileges are not granted for meeting family members or personal guests.

Special: in Ottawa only, once the Greeting Privilege has been approved by the CBSA, the requestor will be contacted by the Canada Reception Centre, as CRC staff will escort the Greeters into the Customs Hall.

CBSA fax numbers are as follows:

  • Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (514) 633-7726
  • MacDonald-Cartier International Airport (613) 998-5584
  • Pearson International Airport (905) 676-5120
  • Vancouver International Airport (604) 666-1812
  • Calgary International Airport (403) 292-8767
  • J.A. Richardson (Winnipeg) International Airport (204) 983-7460
  • Edmonton International Airport (780) 890-4309
  • Jean Lesage International (Québec) Airport (418) 640-3378
  • Stanfield (Halifax) International Airport (902) 873-1336
  • St. John’s International Airport (709) 772-4633

11. Security and Firearms

The National Airport Courtesy Program liaises with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on matters of close protection of foreign dignitaries. Any security concerns in connection with the visit of a VIP to Canada should be brought to the attention of the Department by way of a diplomatic note, along with any specific security concerns pertaining to the visitor.

Any security measures provided by the RCMP for a visiting VIP will be provided as appropriate and commensurate with the RCMP’s threat and risk assessment. In this regard, it should be noted that not all VIPs will qualify for protection under the mandate of the RCMP. In such an event, issues of protection and security may still be discussed with the police of local jurisdiction or private security services.

IMPORTANT: The ownership, transport, and carrying of weapons in Canada is highly regulated. Foreign Security Officers travelling to Canada may not bring or carry their firearms in Canada without the express written authorization of the police force of jurisdiction. Any firearms brought to Canada must be declared to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on the Customs Declaration Card (form E-311) and in person to the Border Services Officer and any firearms brought to Canada without the express written authorization of the police force of jurisdiction must be surrendered to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) immediately on arrival and claimed prior to departure from the same airport of arrival.

Any necessary arrangements for transporting firearms on commercial airlines, as well as for exporting firearms from Canada to a third country, are the responsibility of the sending State. The Government of Canada will not take responsibility for inconveniences resulting from a failure to complete, or follow the terms of such arrangements and meet any requirements of the commercial airline or third country involved.