One of the most frequently asked questions our Customer Care team receives from callers living abroad are about what could happen to them if they wish to return to Canada but have debts owing to Canadian banks and financial firms, as well as student loan debt.
Can you be arrested at the border for not paying your debt?
The chilling image many of these people have is of a Canadian Border Services agent detaining them as arrive back in Canada due to outstanding debts.
While we are not lawyers (and therefore, cannot respond specifically to these issues from a legal perspective), we can reassure you that being detained by a Customs Agent upon your return to Canada if you owe any sort of consumer debt (such as student loans and credit cards) is extremely unlikely.
Canada Border Services agents have, as their primary focus, the safety of Canadian citizens. They are expertly trained to help prevent
such crimes as human trafficking, smuggling of goods and services, and other cross-border illegalities. Your debts to a creditor (such as a bank or other financial institution) are a civil matter. So unless a court order has been issued by a Judge to have you detained once you re-enter the country, you will not be held at our border when you attempt your return to Canada.
There have been cases of individuals with outstanding child support, spousal support and criminal fines who have been detained at the Canadian border once identified by border officials. These individuals are the exception, however, and not the rule. Their situations are far more serious than that of someone who owes money to several credit card companies or for outstanding student loans. It is quite likely they were made aware (in advance) of the possibility of detainment if they attempted to return to Canada.
So, while you shouldn’t fear being arrested or detained when you attempt to cross back into Canada, you should plan ahead to ensure you are able to deal with your debt issues once you are back in the country. That means either emailing or calling our offices as soon as you return here.
If you have been residing outside Canada for at least a year, and have debt of $1,000 or more in Canada, you have the legal right to file for protection from your creditors once you physically return to Canada.
Returning to Canada with debt?
Contact us as soon as possible to discuss your situation in detail during a free, non obligation debt relief consultation, and one of our Customer Care team members will be happy to advise you on your options for substantial debt relief and consumer protection.