Frequently Asked Questions

The CBSA delivers a variety of programs and services. Some are designed to help travellers and trade enter Canada smoothly, while others focus on enforcing laws and ensuring the safety and security of our borders.

If your questions are not answered with these most frequently asked questions, we encourage you to contact the CBSA by email at contact@cbsa.gc.ca or through the Border Information Service line at 1-800-461-9999.

Personal Travel

What are my personal exemptions?

As a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident returning to Canada, duties and taxes are applicable on all purchases unless you qualify for a personal exemption. Personal exemptions allow you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying the regular duties. If you have been outside Canada for:

  • Less than 24 hours, Personal exemptions do not apply to same-day cross-border shoppers;
  • 24 hours or more, you can bring in CAN$200 worth of goods free of duty and tax;

If the goods you bring in are worth more than CAN$200 in total, you cannot claim this exemption. Instead you have to pay full applicable duties and taxes on all goods you bring in.

  • 48 hours or more, you can bring in CAN$800 worth of goods free of duty and tax;

Although you can include some tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, a partial exemption may apply to cigarettes, tobacco products and manufactured tobacco. For more information, visit the sections called "Alcoholic beverages" and "Tobacco products" on our Internet site.

  • 7 days or more, you can bring in CAN$800 worth of goods free of duty and tax. With the exception of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, you do not need to have the goods with you when you arrive

Young children and infants are also entitled to a personal exemption. As a parent or guardian, you can make a declaration to the CBSA for a child as long as the goods you are declaring are for the child's use. Children are not entitled to alcohol or tobacco exemptions.

You should have all purchases made abroad and your receipts readily available.

What are the alcohol and tobacco limits when returning from travel abroad?

When you return from travelling outside of Canada, restrictions apply to the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can bring into Canada under your personal exemption. If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and have been outside Canada for at least 48 hours and are of legal age, you can bring in the following amounts of alcohol and tobacco products free of duty and tax as part of your personal exemption:

Alcohol (only one of the following amounts):

  • 1.5 litres (53 imperial ounces) of wine;
  • a total of 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of alcoholic beverages; or
  • up to a maximum of 24 X 355 ml (12 oz.)/8.5 litres of beer or ale.

Tobacco products (all of the following):

  • 200 cigarettes; and
  • 50 cigars or cigarillos; and
  • 200 tobacco sticks; and
  • 200 g (7 oz.) of manufactured tobacco.

If you bring in more than the exempt allowance of alcohol or tobacco, you will be required to pay the applicable duties and taxes.

For more detail on alcohol and tobacco limits, please consult the I Declare brochure.

What are duties and taxes and how do I pay for them?

The CBSA collects duty and taxes on imported goods, on behalf of the Government of Canada. Duty is a tariff payable on goods imported to Canada. The rates of duty are established by the Department of Finance Canada and can vary significantly from one product to another. To better prepare yourself, you can use the CBSA's Duty and Taxes Estimator in order to provide you with an estimate only and will apply strictly to goods imported for personal use by Canadian citizens and residents returning to Canada.

If the goods you are importing are for personal use and the item is marked "made in Canada, the USA, or Mexico", or if there is no marking or labelling indicating that it was made somewhere other than Canada, the USA, or Mexico, you do not need to pay duties on those goods.

You can pay by cash, traveller's cheque, Visa, American Express or MasterCard. The CBSA also accepts debit cards at most offices. If an amount is no more than CAN$2,500, you can sometimes pay by personal cheque. A border services officer will give you a receipt showing the calculations and amount you paid.

What can I bring into Canada in terms of food, plant, animal and related products?

Travellers and commercial importers are required to properly declare any meats, fruits, vegetables, plants, animals or animal products they bring into the country. This includes end user products made from plant or animal matter.

Before you travel, verify the requirements of what you can bring into Canada by visiting the Food Plant and Animal Web page in conjunction with the information provided on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Web page and by referencing the Automated Import Reference System application.

If you bring these products into Canada, you may go through further inspections at the point of entry (that is, border crossings, airports, etc.).

What is the NEXUS program and how can I become a member?

NEXUS is designed to expedite the border clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travellers into Canada and the United States.

As an added benefit, when travelling on domestic, U.S. bound, and select international flights, NEXUS members can now be expedited through Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) airport security screening lanes, located at eight Canadian airports.

The CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are cooperating in this joint venture to simplify crossing the border for members while enhancing security.

To become a member in this program, you must do the following:

  • submit an application and go through a registration process;
  • satisfy the eligibility criteria;
  • be admissible in Canada and the United States; and
  • pass risk assessments by both countries.

The CBSA Internet site also offers helpful information, for current NEXUS member, on declaring goods and border clearance processes using air, land or marine mode of transportation.

For more information, please call 1-866-NEXUS26 (1-866-639-8726).

What is the procedure for importing firearms into Canada?

When you arrive at the border, you must declare all of your firearms to the border services officer, provide any required documentation and answer all questions truthfully. Visitors not in possession of a Canadian firearms licence, and in the case of a restricted firearm, a registration certificate, must declare their firearms in writing by completing a Non-Resident Firearms Declaration (CAFC 909). If you are importing restricted firearms, you also require an Authorization to Transport (ATT).

An ATT and a CAFC 909 can be obtained by contacting the Canadian Firearms Program at 1-800-731-4000. For additional information about importing firearms into Canada, please visit the Canadian Firearms Program section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Web site.

Where can I learn about importing vehicles into Canada?

To find out how to import vehicles into Canada, please review Importing a Motor Vehicle into Canada. Transport Canada's Road Safety Guide also has all the information you need on vehicle importation from the United States and other countries. In addition, you should also refer to the importer checklist available on the Registrar of Imported Vehicles Web page.

For more information, please contact Transport Canada at 1-800-333-0371.

What is the procedure for importing goods by mail?

Any goods coming into Canada require a proper declaration, including items being imported by mail. When an item is mailed to Canada from abroad, the sender must complete a customs declaration form giving the value, origin and a detailed description of the goods.

To find out more on how to import goods by mail, you can visit the Importing by Mail page. There you will discover what you can import by mail, if you have to pay duties or taxes, how to track your package, and what happens if you're importing prohibited goods.

For additional information, please contact Canada Post at 1-866-607-6301.

Where can I find information for workers, foreign students, or travelers entering Canada?

If you are a foreign national coming to Canada to work, you will likely require a work permit. Please visit Citizenship and Immigration Canada Web page work in Canada to find out more.

If you are a foreign student coming to Canada, you will require a study permit. You may also require a work permit if you intend on working while you study. To find out more, please visit the Citizenship and Immigration Canada Web page studying in Canada.

If you are a traveler visiting, settling in or doing business with Canada, the CBSA provides Canadian border information and services for non-residents such as travel tips, visitors to Canada and CBSA publications and forms. For further information you can also visit the Come to Canada tool provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

For more information, please contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada at 1-888-242-2100 (from Canada only).

What do I need to know if I am moving to Canada?

If you are a resident of Canada who is returning to resume residence after an absence of at least one year or a former resident of Canada who has been a resident of another country for at least a year, please consult the publication Moving back to Canada.

If you are a non-Canadian citizen planning to move to Canada, please consult the publication Settling in Canada for details about your move. The Citizenship and Immigration Internet site also offers many details on immigrating to Canada.

For more information, please contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada at 1-888-242-2100 (from Canada only).

Commercial Travel

What are HS Codes?

The Harmonized System (HS) is the standardized coding system of names and numbers used in international trade. Over 200 countries representing about 98 percent of world trade use the HS as a basis for customs tariffs and the compilation of international trade data and statistics. HS compliance refers to the mandatory proper classification and declaration of goods coming into or leaving Canada. As an importer or exporter, you are responsible for the correct declaration of your goods.

To search for a specific HS code, please refer to the Canada Post HS Code Finder or refer to Industry Canada's Canadian Importer Database to browse products by keyword or by code.

What is the Advance Commercial Information program?

The Advance Commercial Information (ACI) program allows more effective risk management of cargo entering Canada by providing CBSA officers with electronic pre-arrival information so that they are equipped with the right information at the right time to identify health, safety and security threats related to commercial goods before the goods arrive in Canada. The eManifest program is an integral element of ACI.

For general information about the ACI program you can visit the ACI Web page which includes guidelines and requirements. You can also contact the CBSA's Commercial Unit by e-mail at aci-ipec@cbsa-asfc.gc.ca.

What do I need to know before I import goods?

As a commercial importer, you must have a valid business number for your import-export account prior to importing goods into Canada. Please follow the information provided in the Step-by-Step Guide to Importing, which is specifically designed for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help guide you through the commercial importing process.

You will also find a reference list for importers that include contact information for other government departments and agencies involved in the importation of goods.

For more information or to apply online, please contact Canada Revenue Agency at 1-800-959-5525 or www.cra-arc.gc.ca

What do I need to know before I export goods?

Before exporting goods from Canada you must obtain a business number from the Canada Revenue Agency for an import-export account. Please follow the information provided in the Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting in conjunction with the checklist for exporting to help guide small and medium sized enterprises through the commercial exporting process. The exporters section of the CBSA Internet site also provides clarification regarding Customs Tariff and export documentation.

For more information, please contact Canada Revenue Agency at 1-800-959-5525.

What is eManifest and how will I send shipment information to the CBSA?

eManifest is a transformational initiative that will modernize and improve cross-border commercial processes.

When fully implemented, eManifest will require carriers, freight forwarders and importers in all modes of transportation (air, marine, highway and rail) to electronically transmit advance commercial information to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) within prescribed mode-specific time frames.

Clients can transmit the required electronic data using:

Refer to the eManifest Web pages for more information on eManifest, including requirements for each client type.

What is the Free and Secure Trade program and how do I join?

The Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program is a commercial clearance program. To ensure safety and security while expediting legitimate trade across the Canada–U.S. border, all FAST program participants (drivers, carriers and importers) must undergo a risk assessment.

For more information and updates, you can visit a FAST enrolment centre at a location nearest you.

For additional advice on Free and Secure Trade, please call 1-800-842-7647.

What is a Carrier Code and do I need one?

A carrier code is a four-character unique identifier that is assigned by the CBSA to identify a carrier. Only one carrier code is issued to each legal entity (corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship). To find out what type of carrier you are (i.e. bonded carrier, non-bonded carrier, bonded freight forwarder etc.), or how to become a bonded carrier, please visit the CBSA's commercial carrier section.

Note: With the implementation of eManifest, beginning April 1, 2011, carriers, regardless of how often they cross the Canadian border with commercial goods, require a carriercode in order to transact business with the CBSA.

For more information, please contact CBSA Commercial Licensing at 1-866-749-6623, or eManifest at 1-888-957-7224.

What is the Partners in Protection program?

Partners in Protection (PIP) is a cooperative program between private industry and the CBSA aimed at enhancing border and trade chain security.  

This voluntary program has no membership fee. It is designed to streamline and make border processes more efficient for low-risk, pre-approved businesses recognized as trusted traders. As a member, you must abide by the roles and responsibilities outlined in the PIP Terms and Conditions of Use. In return, the CBSA will assess your company's physical, infrastructural, and procedural security, and will recommend necessary improvements. This will enhance the integrity of your production, transportation, importation and/or exportation processes.

What is the Customs Self Assessment program?

The Customs Self Assessment (CSA) program is designed for low-risk, pre-approved importers, carriers and registered drivers. To take advantage of the program, CSA-approved importers and carriers must use a registered driver to carry CSA-eligible goods into Canada in the highway mode.

The CSA program simplifies many of the import border requirements so that low-risk shipments can be processed more quickly and efficiently at the border, saving businesses time and money.

For detailed information, please refer to Memorandum D17-1-7, Customs Self Assessment Program for Importers or Memorandum D3-1-7, Customs Self Assessment Program for Carriers.

What is the Commercial Driver Registration Program?

The Commercial Driver Registration Program (CDRP) is designed to streamline the customs clearance process for commercial freight transporters into Canada from the United States. This program offers efficient and effective clearance to low-risk goods and pre-approved importers, carriers and commercial drivers.

The CDRP is one of three components required for membership in the Customs Self-Assessment program, which involves:

For more information, please contact the CDRP Processing Centre at 905-371-1477 or 1-800-842-7647.