Remote Area Border Crossing (RABC) Permit is Available Again

NW ANGLE SCENERY, Lake of the Woodsw

When the RABC permit came back last year, it actually became easier to obtain.  A traveler, for $30 CDN, can order apply for the permit online and no longer has to go in person to receive the permit.  For those who stay up at the NW Angle and fish Ontario and touch land for shore lunches, stopping for bait or an occasional trip to Kenora by boat, this permit eliminates the need to call in to CBSA and clear customs.

It should be remembered, for those fishing Ontario water from the NW Angle and not touching land, anchoring, mooring or exchanging goods or services, no call into CBSA is necessary.

The RABC, or, Remote Area Border Crossing Permit facilitates the border clearance process for travelers who want to cross the border into Canada in certain remote areas, such as Minnesota’s Northwest Angle.  The program was halted because of COVID, but is now again available with a few slight changes.  This permit is great for those who cross often in remote areas where a Canada Border Services Agency office is not available.

Do I need an RABC to boat into Canada if I am not touching land?

The short answer is no.  Currently, if you are a guest staying in the NW Angle and you enter Ontario via water and will not be touching land, touching a dock, anchoring or exchanging goods or services, then you don’t need to clear customs upon entering Canada.  You can boat in and as long as you stay on water, no check in is necessary.

If you want to travel into Canada and touch land, then an RABC might be for you.  Helpful links are at the end of this article.

Who should apply for an RABC?

If you cross into Canada in a remote area listed as a qualifying area by Canada Border Services Agency on a frequent basis, then this permit might be helpful.

RABC permits are valid only for the remote areas listed below:

o    from Pigeon River through to and including Lake of the Woods

o    the Canadian shore of Lake Superior

o    Cockburn Island

o    Sault Ste. Marie (upper lock system)

o    Northwest Angle Area

The habitual residents of the NW Angle will retain their current status for this purposes of the RABC program. This group is exempt from pre-arrival and on-arrival testing, and is eligible for reusable receipts for ArriveCAN submissions.

To become a RABC permit holder, all applicants will need to submit an application to the CBSA, including proof of vaccination or medical contraindication. Please expect that there will be delays in processing applications.

Should the definition of fully vaccinated change, permit holders would be required to resubmit their new proof of vaccination, and upload it to ArriveCAN. Permit holders must remain aware of and compliant with current reporting and entry requirements, as they are subject to change.

Who is Eligible?

To apply for a Remote Area Border Crossing (RABC) Program permit, you must be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada or the United States or have a right of entry under the Indian Act.

If you are are a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S., you must meet normal Canadian visitor legislative requirements, as described in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Visit Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for more information on immigration requirements for visitors to Canada.

You may not qualify for a program permit if any of the following applies:

you have been previously charged with a contravention of customs or immigration legislation
you have a criminal conviction for which you have not received a pardon
you have provided false or incomplete information on the program application
Family permits

A family may consist of:

a principal applicant
a spouse (includes a spouse/common-law partner who has lived with the principal applicant for one or more years)
children under 18 years of age

Children under 18 years of age must be the applicant or the applicant’s spouse’s children. Children under the legal guardianship of the applicant are also eligible for a permit.

Applicants under 18 can be a principal applicant with a written authorization from their parents/legal guardians.

Please list all children under 18 years of age that may be travelling to Canada in the next year.

Dependents cannot be added after the permit has been processed.

Documents you will need:

To apply for a permit, you must submit valid copies of original acceptable documents that prove your identity and the identities of other members of your family, if applicable.

You may also need other documents depending on your age or the reason(s) for your visit.

Note… Do not send the original document(s).

Applicants over the age of 18 years only need a valid passport to prove their identity.

Program participants over the age of 18 years without a valid passport must submit 2 pieces of identification, including:

-1 primary identity document
-1 secondary identity document

Acceptable primary identity documents

United states permanent resident card
Secure certificate of Indian Status
Certificate of Indian Status
State issued birth certificate (hospital certificates are not acceptable)
Canadian permanent resident card
Record of landing (imm 1000)
Province-issued birth certificate
Citizenship card or citizenship certificate
Certificate of naturalization

Acceptable secondary identity documents

Driver’s license (preferred)
United States social security card
Canadian social insurance card

Requirements for children

If you wish to add a family member under the age of 18 years without a valid passport to your application, you must submit only 1 primary document to prove their identity.

Program participants under the age of 18 years with or without a valid passport will need supporting documents, such as court order or letter of authorization, if they will be travelling with a non-custodial adult.

Program participants under the age of 18 years can apply as a principal applicant with a written authorization from their parents or legal guardians.

Work permits

Remote Area Border Crossing permit holders entering to work in Canada must have a valid work permit. If they are using their RABC permit for work purposes, they are not eligible to add dependants on their RABC permit.

For more information, refer to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

Importing goods for personal use or resale
Refer to Declare the goods you bring into Canada.

Processing fee

The permit fee is CAN $30. The fee includes the principal applicant plus qualifying family members, if applicable.

Exceptionally, all RABC permits issued in the 2022 season will be valid from the date the permit is issued until December 31, 2023.

The processing fee is waived for principal applicants under 18 years of age.

Understand your responsibilities

Before you apply for a Remote Area Border Crossing permit, you should understand the responsibilties of a permit holder.

Keep to designated remote areas

Permit holders cannot travel to other parts of Canada without reporting, by the regular process, into a port of entry.

Present your permit

The CBSA conducts periodic verifications to ensure that:

-however you enter Canada (for example, car/truck/bus, float plane, marine vessel), you have your permit with you
-if you do not have your permit with you, or if the permit has expired, you enter at a port of entry
-dependents travelling separately carry a copy of the permit when crossing the border

Declare the goods you bring into Canada


All restricted and prohibited firearms must be registered and presented to the CBSA at a port of entry prior to being brought into Canada. You may obtain the appropriate form(s) at any CBSA office or by:

Telephone: 1-800-731-4000
Website: Firearm forms

If you have any questions about importing a firearm into Canada, visit Firearms and weapons or call the CBSA office nearest you.

Other goods for use in Canada

Permit holders who are importing goods that will remain in Canada, or who are importing goods over their personal exemption entitlement, must:

-contact a CBSA office prior to departing from the United States
-provide a full description and value of all such goods

A border services officer will issue you a reference number and will advise you of the steps to follow when you arrive in Canada.

Northwest Angle area: Call ahead

If anyone travelling in your vehicle does not have an RABC permit and you are entering Canada from the Northwest Angle area, Minnesota, you must contact the Telephone Reporting Center in advance at:

Telephone: 1-888-226-7277 or 905-679-2073

Use a personal cellular phone or an Outlying Area Report Station phone.

How to Apply…

What to include in your application
A completed and signed Remote Area Border Crossing (RABC) Permit form (BSF386)
A copy of valid identity documentation
Supporting documents (documents you will need)
Processing fee (complete the credit card authorization in the application form)
How long it will take to process your application
Processing time depends on many factors, such as:

method of submission
number of applications in processing
At this time, the CBSA cannot estimate the processing time.

To apply for a permit to use in the Northwest Angle area of Lake of the Woods, please email your application package to: cbsa.rabcapplicationsnwa-applicationsnwaprfe.asfc@cbsa-asfc.gc.ca

To apply for a permit to use in any other area, please email your application form to:

The CBSA recommends that you password protect your documents before submitting the application. Remember to include the password in the email.

Other ways to apply
By regular mail
If you are unable to email your application, you may send a printed copies of your application form (BSF386) and supporting documentation to:

Canada Border Services Agency
RABC Processing Centre
201 North May Street, 1st Floor
Thunder Bay, ON P7C 3P4

You will receive a decision by mail, unless an interview is deemed necessary.

In person
If you are unable to email your application, you may schedule a time to present a copy of your application form (BSF386) and supporting documentation in person to a Border Services Officer at one of the following Canada Border Services Agency offices:

Pigeon River Port of Entry
Monday to Wednesday, 8 am to 8 pm
Call 807-964-3000 to make an appointment (availability is limited)

Sault Ste. Marie Port of Entry
Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 am to 8 pm
Call 705-941-3044 to make an appointment (availability is limited)

Fort Frances Port of Entry
Monday through Sunday, 24 hours
Note Walk-ins are available, clients are not required to make an appointment
Wait times at ports of entry may vary. During peak travel times and holidays, line-ups can result in significant delays.

Payment options
The CAN $30 per application processing fee includes the principal applicant plus qualifying family members
The processing fee is waived for principal applicants under 18 years of age
The processing fee is not refundable
CAN $30 payable by Visa, MasterCard or American Express only

In person at a CBSA office:

The processing fee may be paid in cash, credit card, debit card, or a cheque drawn from a Canadian financial institution
Please note that cheques drawn from United States bank accounts are not acceptable
Contact us
CBSA Border Information Services

Telephone: 1-800-461-9999
Email: Contact us using our Client support contact form

Helpful Links…

RABC General Info

RABC Application

Info about Lake of the Woods

Info about Minnesota’s NW Angle

Lodging around Lake of the Woods


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