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I took a domestic flight from Toronto to Vancouver, and transited to an international flight leaving Canada. When I got to the region for international departures,there was someone (looked like normal airport staff) who looked at my boarding pass and let me through. No one checked my passport, nor did I pass through any automatic kiosks/e-Gates where my passport was scanned.

This confused me because every other country I'd been in had immigration counters checking the identities of people leaving. I was afraid I'd accidentally taken the wrong path in the airport and skipped passport control, and 'illegally' left the country, but things seemed to be fine when I entered Canada again. Surely they are still somehow keeping track of people leaving -- how do they otherwise know if people overstay visas/are escaping fines etc.? So the question is how? Do they get the names of passengers who boarded from the airline? Do they check as I check in in Toronto? None of these would seem very 'safe' options if I were the government since airline staff don't have the same training as immigration officers. Am I missing something after all?

  • I bet you gave your passport number to the airline when booking the flight, or selecting your seat, or at check-in at the latest. The airline informs the country when you departed. – Michael Hampton Jan 2 at 18:13
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Unlike most other countries, Canada doesn't have exit immigration controls. Similarly the US and the UK don't either. This makes perfect sense as there's no point in checking a person on the way out of the country. Your exit was recorded by the airline and passport control will see it in their systems the next time you enter Canada. If you did overstay your visa, you'll be refused entry the next time you try to fly to Canada - it's as simple as that.

If someone is a criminal trying to escape the justice system this is likewise not a big deal - the police will see that a person on the wanted list has booked a ticket and would arrest them at the airport. And if you try to leave through the land border with the US, you'll be arrested by American passport control as Canada shares information about wanted criminals with their international partners.

  • 2
    @PeterM But they do that. Without the right-to-enter your destination country an airline won't let you board because otherwise it'll cost them to fly you back. That's not the same as the actual destination country permitting you in, but it's a strong check that you at least have the right to give it a good go. – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 2 at 13:14
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Technically you didn't pass through exit immigration; it was entry immigration for the United States. The same is available at most Canadian airports that fly to the US and at DUB. – chrylis -on strike- Jan 2 at 13:16
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit The comment I read above specifically states: "FYI, I passed through exit immigration in Vancouver airport en route to Seattle." But what the comment then described is not exit immigration, but US preclearance. – Michael Hampton Jan 2 at 18:17
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit yup, preclearance. We have it in several places, mostly in CA, Ireland and the Caribbean. Many more on the planned list including Bogota, Keflavik, and Dubai. CBP reserves the right to void the preclearance of a particular airplane and make everyone clear again on landing. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 2 at 18:23
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit I did read the whole thing! Again, US preclearance is not exit immigration. It is not technically entry immigration to the US; it actually is entry immigration to the US. – Michael Hampton Jan 2 at 19:22

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