What is the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)?

Updated: Aug 26, 2023 | Tags: CBSA, IRCC

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) plays an indispensable role in the country's national security and public safety operations. As the frontline agency responsible for border enforcement, immigration enforcement, and customs services, the CBSA is integral in ensuring a secure and efficient border.

History of the CBSA

The CBSA was officially established on December 12, 2003, as part of a significant reorganization of the Canadian federal government following the events of September 11, 2001. This reorganization aimed to ensure a more coordinated, consolidated, and focused approach to safeguarding Canada's border.

The agency brought together elements of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the Immigration Branch of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and the port of entry (POE) functions of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This consolidation was designed to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of border management operations.

Purpose of the CBSA

The CBSA's overarching purpose is to ensure Canada's security and prosperity by managing the nation's borders. This means regulating the flow of people and goods into and out of Canada while enforcing the country's immigration and customs laws.

Additionally, the CBSA also plays a significant role in protecting the country from potential threats. This includes intercepting prohibited goods, denying entry to inadmissible individuals, and deterring potential threats to national security.

Functions of the CBSA

Customs Services

As the official customs authority of Canada, the CBSA oversees the import and export of goods in and out of the country. It ensures that duties and taxes owed on these goods are paid and that all imports and exports comply with Canadian law and trade agreements. This involves screening international mail, inspecting commercial shipments, and monitoring goods' movement.

Immigration Enforcement

The CBSA is responsible for enforcing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) at Canadian borders. This involves determining the admissibility of travelers, detaining individuals who may pose a threat to Canada, and removing individuals who are inadmissible or who are found to be in violation of the IRPA.

Border Enforcement

As part of its border enforcement function, the CBSA works closely with other federal, provincial, territorial, and international law enforcement agencies to detect and prevent illegal activities at the border. This includes interdicting illicit drugs, weapons, and other contraband, as well as combating organized crime and terrorism.

Protection of Food Safety, Plant and Animal Health

The CBSA also plays a crucial role in protecting Canada's food safety, plant, and animal health by regulating the importation of food, plants, animals, and related products. This role involves preventing the entry of harmful pests and diseases that could affect Canada's agricultural and natural resources.

How is the CBSA involved with the Canada eTA, visas or immigration?

The CBSA plays a pivotal role in the management and enforcement of immigration rules and regulations in the country, including those related to Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), visas, and immigration.

Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

The CBSA is responsible for overseeing the eTA system. The Canada eTA is a required travel authorisation for travellers that can travel without a visa to Canada via an aircraft. While the eTA is issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the CBSA officers at the airport are tasked with verifying the eTA at the traveller’s point of entry into Canada.

Canadian Visas

Although Canadian visas are issued by IRCC, the CBSA has the authority to review visas at Canada's borders and points of entry. CBSA officers are empowered to question travellers to ensure they meet the necessary requirements to enter or stay in Canada. If there are any doubts about a traveller’s intentions or admissibility, the CBSA can deny them entry.


As part of its mandate, the CBSA is responsible for enforcing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This includes the detection and interception of inadmissible persons or goods. The CBSA can detain and remove individuals who do not have a legal right to be in Canada, including those who pose a threat to national security, are involved in criminal activity, or have violated human or international rights.

So, while the CBSA does not issue eTAs or visas, it plays an integral role in enforcing their rules and regulations, as well as broader immigration laws, at the country's borders.


The Canada Border Services Agency, through its multifaceted functions, plays a critical role in maintaining the security, safety, and economic prosperity of Canada. By managing the country's borders, enforcing customs and immigration laws, and collaborating with other law enforcement agencies, the CBSA ensures a secure and efficient border, a mission that is crucial to every Canadian's and traveller's life.