Canadian Border Security Association has a policy of keeping a profile on all importers. Importers with a good profile – that is, who consistently provide accurate documentation – will be rewarded with less border scrutiny and are able to take advantage of special release options. On the other hand, those with a poor profile will face fines and penalties and will not be able to benefit from participation in some CBSA programs.
There are two stages to customs: release and accounting. You or your customs broker takes care of the release, while accounting is based on the documentation supplied by you as importer, the exporter, and the carrier.
If you are importing to Canada for the first time, we strongly recommend using a customs broker to ensure that everything is accurate and that you build a good profile with customs. Customs can be very complicated for first timers, and someone with in-depth knowledge of the systems is required.
You are responsible for keeping all records related to the import for six years following date of entry.
The documentation to be included with an import varies depending on the value of the goods.
If the value of your import is valued at $1,600 (CDN) or greater, you need to include:
For Imports valued under $1,600 (CDN) you need all of the above apart from a Canada Customs Invoice.
A customs invoice contains information on:
A Certificate of Origin is a documented submitted by the exporter listing the goods to be imported and place of origin. Where countries have agreements (such as NAFTA) for favorable duty treatments for goods originating in specific counties, submission of a certificate of origin can assist in lowering or even completely eliminating duty on goods, thereby helping to increase your competitiveness in the Canadian market.
There are five main types of certificates of origin:
NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement)
CIFTA (Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement)
CCFTA (Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement)
CCRFTA (Canada-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement)
Form “A” Certificate of Origin from certain developing countries
To find out whether a Certificate of Origin is required, read the Canadian Customs guide on Marking Imported Goods and contact a customs agent.
All merchandise imported for commercial use are subject to customs duty and goods and services tax (GST), unless they are exempt or free of duties. No matter where you purchased the goods and in what currency, the value of the goods must be converted in to Canadian dollars to determine the duties payable. Some goods will also have other charges or taxes apply, including excise duty and excise tax on luxury items like jewellery or alcohol.
The CBSA can assist you in determining the duties you will have to pay on goods before they arrive. Valuing goods can be a complicated task as a number of adjustments to the actual sale price are required, expert assistance is usually required.
In order to establish what duties will have to be paid, you must have a thorough description of the goods and know their value and origin. The CBSA can also give you advice about the appropriate valuation method, tariff classification, and tariff treatment. If you wish to know in advance exactly what you will have to pay, you can request an Advance Ruling or a National Customs Ruling on tariff classification, origin, marking or valuation.
Then contact the CBSA through the BIS line (see below) and speak to an agent in person. The agent will refer you to a staff member who specializes in these matters.
Email CBSA: CBSA-ASFC@canada.gc.ca
Phone Border Information Security (BIS) to get computerized information and speak to an agent: Ph. 1 800 461-9999
Canadian Foreign Affairs and International Trade has a general article on importing with contact details for people who can offer specific advise
Canada Border Services has a good FAQ and provides documents you need to import to Canada