Travellers

Residents Returning to Canada

This section applies to Canadian citizens, to permanent residents, and to foreign nationals returning to Canada who are already working or studying here, or who have a temporary resident permit.

Biographical information on certain travellers seeking entry to Canada will be disclosed to the U.S so that entry into one country confirms the exit from the other. Find out more on the Entry/Exit Initiative Web page.

Have proper identification

Make sure you carry proper identification for yourself and any children travelling with you to assist in confirming your legal right or authorization to enter Canada upon your return.

Identification for Canada/U.S. travel

Proper identification includes a Canadian passport, a Canadian birth certificate, a Canadian citizenship certificate, a Certificate of Indian Status or a Canadian Permanent Resident Card.

For all modes of entry, we recommend you carry a valid Canadian passport for all visits abroad, including visits to the United States. A passport may be required by your airline or alternative transportation authority, as it is the only universally-accepted identification document, and it proves that you have a right to return to Canada.

Citizens and permanent residents of Canada, who are members of the NEXUS or FAST programs, may present their membership cards to the CBSA as proof of identity and as documents that denote citizenship, when arriving by land or marine modes only.

If you plan to travel to or transit through the United States, we encourage you to visit www.cbp.gov for information concerning the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, and the requirements to enter or return to the United States.

Identification for international travel

The Government of Canada recommends that Canadian citizens travel with a valid Canadian passport because it is the only reliable and universally-accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians for the purpose of international travel.

International transportation companies such as airlines may require travellers to present a passport. Therefore, Canadian citizens may face delays or may not be allowed to board the aircraft or other mode of transportation, if they present other documents such as those noted in the previous section.

Travelling with minors

Border services officers watch for missing children, and may ask detailed questions about any minors travelling with you.

We recommend that parents who share custody of their children carry copies of their legal custody documents, such as custody rights. If you share custody and the other parent is not travelling with you, or if you are travelling with minors for whom you are not the parent or legal guardian, we recommend you carry a consent letter to provide authorization for you to take them on a trip and enter Canada.

A consent letter must include the custodial parents' or legal guardians' full name, address and telephone number. Some travellers choose to have the consent letter notarized, to further support its authenticity, especially if they are undertaking a significant trip and want to avoid any delay.

When travelling with a group of vehicles, parents or guardians should arrive at the border in the same vehicle as their children or any minors they are accompanying.

Making your declaration

Presenting yourself to the CBSA

All travellers arriving in Canada are obligated by Canadian law to present themselves to a border services officer, respond truthfully to all questions and accurately report their goods. This includes a requirement to report any food, plant and animal products in their possession.

We remind travellers to have the total of all purchases made abroad ready and your receipts readily available. Being prepared to make a full and accurate declaration, including the amount of goods in Canadian dollars you are bringing with you, will help us get you on your way as quickly as possible.

Arriving by air: If arriving by air, you will receive a CBSA Declaration Card while you are on board and you must complete it prior to arrival. Whether you're returning to Canada or visiting, you'll follow the same straightforward process to enter Canada when arriving by air. For a step-by-step guide, consult Arriving by Air or check out our video on YouTube.

Arriving by land: If arriving by land, follow the signs to the first check point — referred to as Primary Inspection – where a border services officer will examine your identification and other travel documents, and take your verbal declaration. Select Border Wait Times to access the estimated wait times for crossing the Canada-United States land border at certain locations.

Arriving by private boat: If arriving by private boat, proceed directly to a designated marine telephone reporting site and call the Telephone Reporting Center (TRC) at 1-888-226-7277 in order to obtain CBSA clearance. Certain private boaters may now present themselves to the CBSA by calling the TRC from their cellular telephones from the location at which they enter Canadian waters. For more information, consult our fact sheet.

For more information to help you make your declaration, consult I Declare.

CBSA Declaration Card

The CBSA Declaration Card tells us what we need to know about you, your travels and what you're bringing into the country. CBSA Declaration Cards are distributed to passengers arriving by air, and are also used at some locations for travellers arriving by train, boat or bus. Bringing a pen in your carry-on baggage will help you complete it, as required, prior to arrival.

Instructions on how to complete the card are attached for your assistance. You can list up to four people living at the same residence on one card. Once the card is completed, detach and discard the instructions. Please do not fold the card, as this allows us to serve you more quickly.

Be sure to keep the card handy along with your identification and other travel documents. You will be asked to show this card to our border services officers several times.

If you have any questions about the card or Canadian regulations, please ask the border services officer when you arrive.

Referrals for secondary services and inspections

At any point during your interactions with our border services officers at a port of entry, you may be referred to our secondary services and inspections area.

We understand that travellers may feel anxious when crossing the border and want you to know that secondary referrals should not be viewed as an indication of wrongdoing. They are a normal part of the cross-border travel process, which any returning resident or visitor to Canada may experience.

Why you may be referred

You may be referred for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to:

  • verifying your declaration and/or documentation;
  • answering more in-depth questions about yourself or presenting your goods for inspection;
  • determining your admissibility to Canada or the admissibility of goods in your possession;
  • paying duty and taxes;
  • undergoing a random inspection;
  • reporting currency or monetary instruments equal to or greater than CAN$10,000 when entering or exiting Canada;
  • completing or processing paperwork to support your entry or the entry of your goods to Canada.

For information on what to expect, what we ask of you and guidance on how you can provide client service feedback, consult What to Expect: Secondary Services and Inspections.

Paying duty and taxes

The Canada Border Services Agency collects duty and taxes on imported goods, on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Duty is a tariff payable on a good imported to Canada. Rates of Duty are established by the Department of Finance Canada and can vary significantly from one trade agreement to another.

No duty is payable on goods imported for personal use, if it is marked as “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.

Most imported goods are also subject to the Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Provincial Sales Tax (PST) or, in certain provinces and territories, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

Duty and Taxes Estimator

The CBSA's Duty and Taxes Estimator provides an estimate only and applies strictly to goods imported for personal use by Canadian citizens and residents returning to Canada. The final amount of applicable duties and taxes may vary from the estimate and will be determined by a border services officer when you arrive at the border.

It is important to note that personal exemptions, tariff classification, applicable rates of duty and taxes and other circumstances that may affect the amount of duties and taxes owed on imported goods are subject to change from time to time, depending on the applicable legislation, regulations and policies.

Where specific products within a category of goods have different rates of duty, the highest rate has been used to produce the estimate.  

Use the Duty and Taxes Estimator.

Are you eligible for a personal exemption?

When you return to Canada, you may qualify for a personal exemption. This allows you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying regular duty and taxes, except for a minimum duty that may apply to some tobacco products.

You are eligible for a personal exemption if you are one of the following:

  • a Canadian resident returning from a trip outside Canada;
  • a former resident of Canada returning to live in this country; or
  • a temporary resident of Canada returning from a trip outside Canada.

Even young children and infants are 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.

For more detailed explanations of what constitutes a personal exemption, consult
I Declare.

Personal exemption amounts

The length of your absence from Canada determines the amount of goods you can bring back, without paying any duties.

Traveller personal exemption limits effective June 1, 2012
Less than 24 hours Personal exemptions do not apply to same-day cross-border shoppers.
24 hours or more Up to CAN$200 – Alcohol and tobacco cannot be claimed. Goods must be in your possession at time of entry to Canada. If the value of the goods you have purchased abroad exceeds $200 after a 24 hour absence, duty and taxes are applicable on the entire amount of the imported goods.
48 hours or more Up to CAN$800 – May include alcohol and tobacco products, within the prescribed limits set by provincial or territorial authorities. Goods must be in your possession at time of entry to Canada. Travellers absent for periods of 48 hours or more will have the applicable exemption level credited against the total value of goods.
7 days or more Up to CAN$800 – May include alcohol and tobacco products, within the prescribed limits set by provincial or territorial authorities. For the seven-day exemption, goods may be in your possession at time of entry to Canada but are also permitted to follow entry to Canada (such as via courier, mail or delivery agency), except alcohol and tobacco products, which must be in your possession. All the goods will qualify for duty- and tax-free entry if they are declared at the initial return to Canada.

For more information, consult I Declare.

Travelling with alcohol and tobacco

Alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverages are products that exceed 0.5% alcohol by volume. You are allowed to import only one of the following amounts of alcohol and alcoholic beverages free of duty and taxes, as part of your personal exemption:

Alcoholic beverage limits
(While bottle sizes vary, the amounts listed are fixed.)
Product Metric Imperial Estimates
Wine Up to 1.5 litres Up to 53 fluid ounces Two 750 ml bottles of wine.
Alcoholic Beverages Up to 1.14 litres Up to 40 fluid ounces One large standard bottle of liquor
Beer or Ale Up to 8.5 litres Up to 287 fluid ounces Approximately 24 cans or bottles (355 ml each) of beer or ale.

You must be of legal age in the province of importation. While you are permitted to import alcoholic beverages in excess of the amounts listed above, we remind all travellers that they will be responsible for paying duty and taxes on the additional alcoholic beverages they are importing.

For further details on bringing back alcohol, consult I Declare.

Tobacco products

If you are 18 years of age or over, you are allowed to bring in all of the following amounts of tobacco products into Canada free of duty and taxes within your personal exemption:

Tobacco product limits
Cigarettes 200 cigarettes
Cigars 50 cigars
Tobacco 200 grams of manufactured tobacco
Tobacco sticks 200 tobacco sticks

If you include cigarettes, tobacco sticks or manufactured tobacco in your personal exemption, a partial exemption only may apply. You will have to pay a special duty on these products unless they have an excise stamp “DUTY PAID CANADA DROIT ACQUITTÉ.” You will find Canadian-made products sold at duty-free shops marked this way. You can speed up your clearance by having your tobacco products available for inspection when you arrive.

For further details on bringing back tobacco products, consult I Declare.

Restricted/prohibited goods

The importation of certain goods is restricted or prohibited in Canada. To avoid the possibility of penalties, including seizure or prosecution, make sure you have the information you require before attempting to import items into Canada.

The following are some examples of restricted or prohibited goods:

Firearms and weapons: You must declare all weapons and firearms at the CBSA port of entry when you enter Canada.

Food, plants, animals and related products: All food, plants, animals, and related products must be declared. Food can carry disease, such as E. coli. Plants and plant products can carry invasive alien species, such as the Asian Long-Horned Beetle. Animals and animal products can carry diseases, such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease.

Explosives, fireworks and ammunition: You are required to have written authorization and permits to bring explosives, fireworks and certain types of ammunition into Canada.

Vehicles: Vehicles include any kind of pleasure vehicles such as passenger cars, pickup trucks, snowmobiles and motor homes, as long as you use them for non-commercial purposes. There are many requirements that apply to the importation of vehicles.

Consumer products: The importation of certain consumer products that could pose a danger to the public (e.g., baby walkers, jequirity beans that are often found in art or bead work) is prohibited. Canadian residents should be aware of consumer products that have safety requirements in Canada. Many of these safety requirements are stricter than requirements of other countries.

For more information on restricted/prohibited goods, consult I Declare or our publications specific to Importing a Firearm or Weapon Into Canada and Importing a Vehicle Into Canada.

Travelling with CAN$10,000 or more

If you have currency or monetary instruments equal to or greater than CAN$10,000 (or the equivalent in a foreign currency) in your possession when arriving in or departing from Canada, you must report this to the CBSA. Monetary instruments include items such as stocks, bonds, bank drafts, cheques, and travellers' cheques.

We remind all travellers that this regulation applies to currency and monetary instruments you have on your person, in your baggage and in your vehicle.

Upon your arrival in Canada with CAN$10,000 or more in your possession, it must be reported on the CBSA Declaration Card (if one was provided to you), or in the verbal declaration made to a border services officer.

When departing Canada by air with CAN$10,000 or more in your possession, you must report to the CBSA office within the airport, prior to clearing security or, if departing by land or boat, report your intent to export to the CBSA at one of our offices.

For more information, including instructions on how to report your intent to import or export currency in person, by mail, or by courier, consult Crossing the border with $10,000 or more?

Travelling with gifts

While you are outside Canada, you can send gifts free of duty and taxes to friends in Canada under certain conditions. To qualify, each gift must not be worth more than CAN$60 and cannot be a tobacco product, an alcoholic beverage or advertising matter. If the gift is worth more than CAN$60, the recipient will have to pay regular duty and taxes on the excess amount. It is always a good idea to include a greeting card to avoid any misunderstanding.

While gifts you send from outside Canada do not count as part of your personal exemption, gifts you bring back in your personal baggage do.

If you are travelling with gifts, do not wrap them prior to crossing the border. If you do, we remind you that a border services officer may need to unwrap the gift to conduct an examination of the goods you are bringing into Canada.

Protecting your valuables

If your laptop computer was made in Japan—for instance—you might have to pay duty and taxes on it each time you bring it back into Canada, unless you can prove that you owned it before you left on your trip. Documents that fully describe the item—such as sales receipts, insurance policies, or jeweller's appraisals—are acceptable forms of proof.

To make things easier, we provide a free identification service that lists items that have serial numbers or other unique markings, making them identifiable for customs purposes as goods you possessed before leaving Canada. All items listed will be allowed duty-free entry upon your return.

Please note that this service does not apply to jewellery; because jewellery often has significant value, we recommend you travel with as little as possible. We also recommend you carry valuable items with you.