The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has designed the E311 form (Declaration Card) so that families of 1-4 individuals can complete a single declaration card. Canadian citizens and residents must complete a Declaration Card when returning to Canada by air. At land border crossings, the CBSA prefers each NEXUS traveler complete a Traveller Declaration Card prior to arrival at the border. The Traveller Declaration Card is completed by each family member in the car separately (all must by NEXUS participants). Persons who are not NEXUS participants make a verbal declaration to the CBSA in the primary booth.
In 2013, we saw a number of entire families lose their NEXUS cards due to an error by a single family member. Sometimes, just the father (usually the person who completes the E311 form or the first person listed in the form) was the only person to have his NEXUS card cancelled despite the fact a spouse or child made the errors. When this occurs, the most frequent traveler in the family is the most severely punished by the CBSA for mistakes of persons traveling in their family posse.
This happens because the first person listed on the E311 form is usually the person the CBSA lists in the seizing documentation. In other words, the CBSA does not identify the person who actually made the mistakes even though the secondary CBSA officers have asked for and received everyone’s information. Since the infraction is documented as having been committed by the first person, this is the person whose name is sent to the NEXUS Program and whose NEXUS privileges are cancelled.
When the person appeals the penalty (requests a redetermination is the correct terminology), the CBSA sends the primary and secondary officers’ Narrative Reports. Usually these Narrative Reports show that the appellant did not commit any infraction. Usually, the Narrative Reports refer to the person who made the errors or are unclear as to who made the errors (this happens when the CBSA officers complete Narrative Reports at a later date).
For example, a family of 3 went to New York City for a family week-end. Each family member was away more than 48 hours and each was entitled to claim a $800 exemption. However, the mother and the daughter each spent more than $800 because it was New York City. The mother completed the E311 form, but put the father’s name first in the E311 form. Each individual signed in respect of their portion of the declaration. The problem was that the mother and daughter made an under-declaration ($800 each). The father had no idea of their receipts and had no way of knowing the precise totals for others listed on the form were incorrect. He knew his declaration was correct.
In this case, we successfully appealed the fine (actually called a request for redetermination) against the father and his NEXUS privileges were reinstated. In this case, the Narrative Reports were helpful in showing that the mother was clearly identified in the Narrative Reports and admitted to the error.
Stories like this one played out on numerous occasions in 2013. One reason for the misidentification of the offender is the CBSA’s multi-person forms. Another reason is that the head of the household is usually the father and he usually pays the fine. Another reason is that the CBSA officers make mistakes too. Unfortunately, when a CBSA officer makes a mistake, it can take months to correct the mistake and honest business persons must use the long line ups at security and customs until the mistake is corrected. Also, the traveler is more likely to be sent to secondary inspection for a more thorough review when returning to Canada because the computers will inform the primary officer that the person has a recent/past infraction (or if the person uses the new automated kiosk – will print a form for the exist screener).