Frequently asked questions

May 13, 2024: Change to import-export program (RM) administration

The Canada Revenue Agency continues to issue the required business number (BN9). The CBSA has taken over RM account-related services. Until October 2024:

  1. to register for a new import-export program account (RM), complete form BSF947: Request for a CBSA Import/Export Program Account
  2. to submit a maintenance request for existing RM accounts, complete form BSF948: Request for Change(s) to Existing CBSA Import/Export Program Account

1. Why should I complete a feedback form?

Service excellence is a key priority of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). We are committed to providing the best possible service to all of our clients:

We want to hear from you to ensure the service we provide is fair, accurate, accessible, efficient and timely. Your feedback helps us to understand your needs and improve the delivery of our programs and services.

2. What information is required to ensure my feedback will be processed?

To receive the most efficient service, we encourage you to submit your compliment, comment or complaint by completing our electronic feedback form. For more information, please refer to How to submit your feedback.

3. What if my submission is not a compliment or complaint?

The Canada Border Services Agency would like to hear about your experience with us. The feedback form is to be used to submit a compliment or complaint about the service you received or about a specific program. 

If you have a general question for the CBSA, and not a compliment or complaint, please refer to our Contact Us page. The CBSA delivers a variety of programs and services, some of which are designed to help travellers and trade enter Canada smoothly.

If you suspect suspicious cross-border activity, we encourage you to contact the CBSA Border Watch Toll-free line at 1-888-502-9060. All calls are confidential.

If you are seeking a review of an enforcement action or trade decision, please refer to the Appeals/Reviews page.

If you think your feedback may be about another government department, organization or agency, please visit the Service Canada Web site to locate the appropriate contact information.

4. What is the CBSA's process and how long will it take?

Once your feedback is received, it will be forwarded to the appropriate area(s) within the CBSA in the following manner:

Compliments about your experiences with the CBSA will be passed on to the responsible manager and/or employee for recognition.

Complaints will be handled in an efficient, professional and impartial manner. Once a complaint is submitted, it will be shared with the appropriate manager or supervisor who will discuss it with the employee(s) concerned and a review will ensue.

The complaint will be handled in accordance with the following service standards:

The CBSA endeavours to meet these service standards under normal day-to-day operational conditions. Should a complaint require additional time to review due to its complexity, or if an identified border security concern or an unforeseen and unusual border pressure occurs, the contact and/or response time(s) may vary.

5. How will my personal information be used?

The information you provide on the feedback form is collected under the authority of paragraph 5(1)(a) of the Canada Border Services Agency Act. The information may be disclosed to employees of the Canada Border Services Agency, including those involved where the incident occurred, for the purposes of reviewing and/or investigating your complaint, providing positive recognition to the office or region indicated in your compliment, or to provide feedback to program officials on your experience with the CBSA. Information may also be shared internally with Security and Professional Standards for employees to conduct investigations, or may be shared internally or with international, federal, provincial or local law enforcement agencies for law enforcement and investigation purposes as authorized by subsection 8(2) of the Privacy Act.

Providing the information requested on this form is voluntary. However, we can only respond to your correspondence if you complete the fields on the form marked (required). Without this information, we may be unable to fully address your complaint. Individuals have the right to access and/or make corrections of their personal information under the Privacy Act. The information collected is described within Info Source under the Personal Information Bank CBSA PPU 003 and

6. How long does the container examination process take?

The CBSA relies on terminal operators to present goods in a timely manner. The CBSA cannot control when goods are presented, but in keeping with the CBSA mandate, examinations are conducted thoroughly but efficiently to not impede the facilitation and free flow of goods.

Many factors influence how long it takes a container to be examined. These include: the container transit time from the terminal to the container examination facility; fumigant testing and ventilation procedures; container offloading and reloading times; and weekends and holidays.

Additional details are available on the marine shipping container examination process page.

7. What is a marine container number?

The marine container number is made up of seven characters in a alpha-numeric sequence – four letters followed by seven numbers. The first three letters designates the owner code or principal operator of the container and the fourth letter is the category identifier (U – for all freight containers / J – for detachable freight container-related equipment / Z – for trailers and chassis), followed by the six serial numbers and a check digit. The marine container number can be found on the bill of lading or on other documents provided by the freight forwarder.

An example of the marine container number format should be included. e.g. “ABCD 1234567”.

8. Why was I charged fees for the examination of my shipping container(s)?

The CBSA does not apply any charges to importers for examinations. The CBSA pays for all costs associated with our services, including the inspection personnel, the equipment and the tools required for the marine container examinations.

It is the importer’s, and by extension the conveyance operator’s, responsibility to present goods upon request to the CBSA, remove any covering from the goods, unload any conveyance or open any part of the conveyance, or open or unpack any package or container that the CBSA wishes to examine. This responsibility includes the costs incurred for goods to be presented for exam.

Costs associated with a CBSA examination are charges applied by the warehouse facility for making goods available for exam. These fees include the trucking to and from the facility, warehouse staff labour and specialized equipment, if used. This includes any charges described as, “CBSA examination fees.”

The facility operator bills these costs to the shipping lines that, in turn, pass the cost to the importer. Further questions regarding the delay and related charges should be brought to the attention of the shipping line/agent or facility operator, who should be able to provide a breakdown of all fees associated with the shipment and related container(s).

Additional details are available on the marine shipping container examination process page.

9. Can I request a status update on my marine container or request that my marine container examination be expedited or cancelled?

If your shipment has been selected for exam, status updates from the CBSA will not be available until your container has reached a container examination facility or is released from examination. If a marine container status inquiry is necessary, it should be submitted, at the earliest, a few days after the container has arrived in Canada to account for logistics of the container arriving at a CBSA facility. Due to the high volume of requests received, a same-day response may not be possible.

It is not normal protocol for marine container examinations to be fast-tracked or cancelled. Although you may request that your marine container examination be expedited or cancelled, only under exigent circumstances with sufficient reasons will such requests be considered. Please note that even in such circumstances, the request may still not be feasible.

You can find additional details on the marine shipping container examination process page.

10. Where is my postal shipment?

Postal shipments can be identified by their tracking number(s). If the tracking number is 13 digits and follows a 2 letter – 9 numbers format it will be processed via the postal stream. You can track your shipment using the tracking number provided by Canada Post. For more information about the tracking number or examples of them, please refer to the Canada Post website.

11. What does it mean if my item has been sent for further processing?

This message indicates that the shipment has arrived in Canada and is in the care of Canada Post. The CBSA does not have any control over how and when Canada Post decides to present this mail to the CBSA.

12. What does it mean if my item has been sent to the CBSA for customs review?

This message is confirmation that an item is with the CBSA. When presented to the CBSA, mail shipped by overnight or expedited delivery is placed in a queue that is reviewed on a “first in, first out” basis. The expedited shipping option only guarantees the arrival of a parcel in Canada and does not account for the regulatory customs processing time. If your shipment is facing delays but is not in the care and control of the CBSA, please contact Canada Post.

The CBSA is unable to provide tracking for parcels being processed. The CBSA works to clear all packages as quickly as possible. Delays can occur due to the package itself, its documentation or volumes at customs.

13. Why are travellers referred for a secondary inspection?

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

Our officers are subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Referrals are not made on any discriminatory basis, such as race, nationality, religion, age or gender.

If you are referred for secondary services or inspection, an officer may:

While the majority of travellers are in compliance with Canadian laws and regulations, we do encounter individuals who intend to break the law and attempt to avoid detection. For this reason, the officer may not always answer specific questions regarding a secondary inspection.

For more information, consult the Travellers page.

14. What’s the difference between a transaction number, a cargo control number, an importer/business number and a postal shipment number?

Transaction number
A unique 14-digit number in bar-code format that is mandatory on all paper release documents
Cargo control number (CCN) / airway bill number
A bar-coded cargo control number. The first four digits of the CCN must be the carrier's unique carrier code, and is found on the cargo control document (CCD). The most commonly used type of CCD is form A8A(B)
Importer/business number
A business number is issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for an import/export account
Postal shipment tracking number
Postal shipments can be identified by their tracking number(s). If the tracking number is 13 digits and follows a 2 letter – 9 numbers format it will be processed via the postal stream.
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