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A Guide for Canadian Businesses Importing from the U.S.

What are the basics on how to import goods into Canada?

In order to import goods, you will need a business number, which is issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Additional information on this business number is provided at: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/import/rb-ee-eng.html.

You should also contact the nearest Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) office to obtain information on other required documents, import procedures, and applicable taxes before you import from the United States. A list of CBSA offices in Canada is available at: http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/contact/listing/indexpages/index-e.html.

When your import shipment arrives from the United States, you will have to show Canada Customs your Cargo Control Documents, Business Number, Invoices, and Permits, and pay any applicable taxes using Form B-3, Canada Customs Coding Form. Canada Border Services Agency provides additional information and links to other relevant government agencies at: http://www.canada.gc.ca/home.html.

Do I have to pay tariffs or taxes on goods that I import from the United States?

Under NAFTA, your company is not charged any duties or tariffs when importing U.S. manufactured goods. If the goods you are importing from the United States are not of U.S. origin, you may have to pay applicable duties.

Regardless of the origin of the goods you are importing, you will need to pay the five percent Goods and Services Tax (GST), just as you would if purchasing the goods in Canada. In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, importers pay the 13 percent HST on all imports. Additional information about the GST and HST is available by calling 1-800-959-5525, or to order forms and/or publications, call 1-800-959-2221.

Do I need an import license?

There are no general licenses required for importing goods into Canada. There are, however, provisions related to a variety of prohibited, controlled and restricted goods. Additional information regarding restrictions on the importation of these types of goods is provided from the Canada Border Services Agency web site at: http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/import/menu-eng.html.

Do I require any special import documentation?

A properly completed Canada Customs Invoice or its equivalent is required for all commercial shipments valued at more than CDN$1,200 (approximately o/a US $1,177) imported into Canada. In addition to the Canada Customs Invoice, shipments must be accompanied by a completed exporter's Certificate of Origin, which is required in order to obtain specialized tariff treatment under the provisions of the NAFTA. A list of the most requested CBSA documents is available at: http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/import/reporting-declarer-eng.html.

You may need additional permits or import documentation from other government agencies depending upon the goods that you are importing from the United States. For additional information, visit: http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/help-aide/topic-sujet/17-eng.html.

How do I import by courier?

In 1989, the Canada Border Services Agency developed the Courier/LVS (low-value shipment) Program. It is designed for goods valued under CDN$1,600 and requires a combined cargo report and release document called the "cargo/release list." Find out more at: http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/import/courier/lvs-efv/menu-eng.html.

Can I temporarily import goods from the United States?

CBSA has made specific provisions for the temporary entry of certain goods into Canada for various purposes, such as testing, demonstration, and display. For more information on this topic, see our guide entitled "Temporary Importation of Goods into Canada" on this website.

What about labelling and marking requirements?

The Competition Bureau, Fair Business Practices Branch of Industry Canada provides an on-line tool intended to assist you in meeting the labelling requirements of federal legislation: http://cb-bc.gc.ca/epic/internet/incb-bc.nsf/en/home.

The worksheets and graphic illustrations provided will not address all situations. For more detailed information, please contact your nearest Fair Business Practices Branch office by requesting a list of office across by sending an e-mail to: compbureau@N0SPAM.cb-bc.gc.ca

The main pieces of legislation which regulate almost all product labelling and marking in Canada include: the Consumer packaging and Labelling Act; the Weights and Measures Act; the Textiles Labelling and Advertising Act; the Precious Metals Marking and Labelling Act; and the Canadian Agricultural Products Act.

Canada requires bilingual labelling (English and French) for most products. Bilingual designation of the generic name on most prepackaged consumer products is required by the federal Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. Under this Act, the following information must appear on the package/label of a prepackaged consumer good sold in Canada: Product Identity Declaration; Net Quantity Declaration; and Dealer's Name and Principal Place of Business.

CBSA also requires an indication of the country of origin, such as "Made in the USA" on several classes of imported goods and on all printed matter. Canadian regulations require that declarations of net content of all packaged consumer goods be stated in metric units in both English and French, although imperial units may also be shown.

With respect to the use of environmental claims, industry is charged with ensuring that any environmental claims are accurate and in compliance with relevant legislation. In general, environmental claims that are ambiguous, vague, incomplete, misleading, or irrelevant, and that cannot be substantiated through credible information and/or test methods, should not be used.

Labelling Requirements:

Make sure you have contacted other government department or agencies, for example the Competition Bureau, Canadian Food Inspection Agency or Health Canada, to ensure your imported goods meet the necessary labelling requirements. Ensuring that this is addressed prior to the goods leaving the country of export will facilitate the importing process.

Are there special considerations with labelling and marking in Quebec?

The Province of Quebec requires that all products sold in that province be labelled in French and that the use of French be given equal prominence with other languages on any packages or containers sold in Quebec stores. The Charter of the French Language requires the use of French on product labelling, warranty certificates, directions for use, public signs and written advertising. Further information on French labelling requirements is available from the Office de la Langue Fran├žaise (Office of the French Language): http://www.olf.gouv.qc.ca.

Are there any imports that are prohibited?

The majority of U.S. products shipped to Canada enter the market free from any import restrictions. However, under the provisions of the Canadian Customs Tariff regulations, certain commodities, such as reprints of Canadian copyrighted work, and some game birds, cannot be imported. Other goods that are controlled, regulated, or prohibited under legislation fall within the jurisdiction of other government departments. Examples of regulated goods include: certain food products; clothing; drug and medical devices; hazardous products; some offensive weapons and firearms; and endangered species. Visit: http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/security-securite/prohib-eng.html.

Other items are regulated under the Export and Import Permits Act and require an import permit or certificate to be eligible for importation into Canada. The Act lists various agricultural products, a number of clothing and textile items, and certain steel products. Inquiries regarding the issuance of import permits or certificates and quota allocations should be directed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Export and Import Permits Control Bureau.

Does Canada have any Free Trade Zones or Warehouses?

Goods may be cleared at customs ports on the border or, if intended for inland destinations, may be forwarded in bonded carriers to the port city nearest the destination at which customs examination may be made and duties and taxes paid. With the exception of one special trade zone at the Sydport Industrial Park in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada has no free ports or free trade zones.

Sufferance warehouses under private ownership have been established for the storage and deposit of all imports received by various transportation modes, pending customs examination and clearance. An entry for consumption or into bonded warehouse must be presented to Canada Customs within 30 days. Goods may be entered into a Canada Customs bonded warehouse without the payment of duty, but must be cleared either for export or Canadian consumption within two years. Extended periods are allowed, by regulation, for certain goods.

Goods exported from bonded warehouses to third countries are subject to Canadian export regulations. Repackaging and sorting can be carried out in Canada Customs' bonded warehouses with the permission of Canada Border Services Agency, but assembly or other industrial activity is prohibited. Additional information is available at: http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/dm-md/d7/d7-4-4-eng.html.

Additional Resources

1. Small Business Information Seminar (Canada Revenue Agency) 
 
http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/vnts/menu-eng.html

2. Small Business Seminars for New Importers

Canada Border Services Agency, is offering free, monthly customs information seminars for new importers. The seminars are designed to benefit individuals or small business entrepreneurs who are thinking about importing commercial goods into Canada. The seminar is 3-4 hours long and will cover basic information on importing including the importing process, how duty is determined, other government department contacts, and other trade programs. For more details or if you wish to register, please call:

http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/events-evenements/on/menu-eng.html

3. Small Business Customs Centre

The main resource for customs information, procedures, legislation, seminars, client services, forms, an exchange rate converter and customs library.

http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/sme-pme/sme-tkbo-pme-eng.html