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I want to fly from the US to Israel and am looking at a flight with a layover in Canada (PIT -> YYZ -> TLV). How does customs work on such a multi-country trip? Do I have to go through the process for both Canada and Israel (and then Canada and the US on the way back), or do I do it just once so long as I stay within the secure zone in the middle airport? If it's just once, is it at the destination or in Canada?

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Just curious, where in Canada is YYZ int'l airport? – Adam Mosheh May 16 '12 at 3:31
Sorry, that's Toronto. I guess all the abbreviations with "T" in them were taken. :-) – Monica Cellio May 16 '12 at 3:35
You haven't mentioned how long your layover is. Less than I day I assume from context. In fact I'm always a bit fuzzy on whether stopover and layover are synonyms used in different countries or if layover means not leaving the airport and stopover means you will leave the airport. I think I'll ask this question here ... – hippietrail May 16 '12 at 6:46
@hippietrail, a couple hours -- I don't intend to leave the airport. (And no idea if it's a layover or a stopover; I didn't know there was a difference.) – Monica Cellio May 16 '12 at 12:34
@MonicaCellio: I don't know if there's a difference either but it inspired me to ask a question: In the context of air travel, are layovers different to stopovers? (-: – hippietrail May 16 '12 at 16:04
up vote 10 down vote accepted

For virtually all international airports, as long as you are on a single itinerary with your bags booked through, you will stay in the transit area and do not need to clear immigration or Customs. However, if you purchased separate tickets for the two legs, this does not apply: you will need to pass through Immigration (which may require visas etc), collect your bags and check them back in.

Unfortunately the United States is, as ever, the odd one out. Transits through the US always require the full Immigration/Customs rigmarole, full stop. In the original poster's case, a transit through Toronto, Canada from/to the US, they'll need to pass through at least a "lite" version of Canada Immigration/Customs even if they connect on approved airlines via Toronto T1, although there are some special transit-without-visa rules for citizens of some countries resident in the US.

EDIT: Updated after Doc's entirely accurate comment.

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Note that this answer is NOT always correct. See… for 2 more correct answers. You WILL need to go through Canadian Border Services Agents (see and you MAY need a visa to do so depending on your country of residence. – Doc May 17 '12 at 4:38
You are correct, sir. Answer updated accordingly. – jpatokal May 18 '12 at 1:09

I just landed in YYZ (about 2 hours ago) on a flight from PHL into Terminal 1, which is used by Air Canada and other Star Alliance carriers. Passengers with connections to Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai were directed off to the special connecting version of customs by a cardboard sign, suggesting it might be other flights other times. Everyone else (including Israel) would have had to clear Canadian customs.

I don't have any Terminal 3 info for you.

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Most likely it isn't other flights (or at least, not other destinations). There is a special exception in place for many of the passengers of Chinese flights, which could explain why they were treated differently - see for details. – Doc May 19 '12 at 6:38
Thanks for the eye-witness account! – Monica Cellio May 20 '12 at 3:18

I would think that you would be isolated into a special international terminal once you land in Canada. However, I am just speculating. If you'd like, I might recommend that you Consult Your Local Travel Agent (CYLTA). Enjoy your time in the Holy Land and cherish every second there!

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While YYZ does have an International Terminal, flights from the US don't land in International - they are Transborder. (We do customs preclearance in YYZ for flights to the States.) I know there is sterile transfer for some flights, but not all, so check with the airline to be completely sure. – Kate Gregory May 16 '12 at 18:03

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