Importing commercial goods into Canada: 1. Preparing to import
Businesses must obtain a Safe Food For Canadians (SFC) licence before presenting their shipments at the border. SFC licences cannot be obtained at the border.
Most foods imported commercially require a valid SFC licence, including:
- confectionary and snack foods (for example, chips, candy, cookies, chocolates)
- non-alcoholic beverages (for example, tea, coffee, carbonated drinks)
- grain-based foods (for example, bread, cereals, pasta, baked goods)
For more information on import requirements:
- Contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
- Check the CFIA's web page on commercially importing foods into Canada
- Consult the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS)
1. Preparing to import
Obtain a Business Number
Before importing commercial goods into Canada, as a business or an individual, you will need to obtain a Business Number (BN) issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for an import/export account. This import/export account is free of charge and can usually be obtained in a matter of minutes.
To register for a BN or add an import/export RM account identifier to an existing BN:
- Call the CRA's Business Window at 1-800-959-5525
- Visit the CRA's Business Registration Online (BRO)
Identify the goods you want to import
You should gather as much information as possible about the goods you intend to import. Obtain descriptive literature, product composition information and, whenever possible, product samples. This information will be crucial when it comes time to determine the tariff classification of the goods you wish to import. The tariff clarification number will be used to determine the rate of duty that will be applied to your goods.
Determine if you will use the services of a licensed customs broker
You may feel comfortable preparing your own release and accounting documentation and transacting business directly with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or you may authorize a Licensed Customs Broker to act as your agent to transact business. It is important to remember that you are ultimately responsible for the accounting documentation, payment of duties and taxes, and subsequent corrections such as re-determination of classification, origin and valuation even if you use the services of a broker.
The CBSA licenses customs brokers to carry out customs-related responsibilities on your behalf to clear goods across the Canadian border. A broker's service typically includes:
- Obtaining the release of the imported goods;
- Paying any duties that may apply;
- Obtaining, preparing and presenting or transmitting the necessary documents or data;
- Maintaining records; and
- Responding to any CBSA concerns after payment.
Consult the CBSA's licensed customs broker list should you wish to use the services of a broker.
You will have to pay a fee for these services, which the brokerage firm will establish with you. Brokers do not work for the federal government; they are private agents licensed by the CBSA.
Determine the country of origin for the goods you are importing
Identify the country where your goods originate. It is important to remember that this does not simply mean the country from which the product was shipped to you. It may also include where individual parts of the product are from, as well as where it was assembled into the final product.
Requirements for proof of origin can be found in Memorandum D11-4-2, Proof of Origin.
Ensure the goods you wish to import are permitted into Canada
Certain goods are not allowed to be imported into Canada. This includes the obvious such as child pornography and hate propaganda, as well as less obvious items such as used mattresses and some used automobiles. For more information on prohibited products, please consult Memoranda Series D9, Prohibited Importations.
Determine whether the goods you intend to import are subject to any permits, restrictions or regulations
Many goods are subject to the requirements of other government departments and agencies and may require permits, certificates, and/or inspection. The CBSA is responsible for administering the legislated import requirements on behalf of other government departments.
It should be noted that more than one government department may have a role to play in the requirements and regulations pertaining to the importation of certain goods; it is therefore beneficial to contact any that may play a role.
You will need to determine whether or not the goods you want to import are subject to regulations, restrictions, permits or other requirements. The CBSA's Other Government Departments and Agencies: Reference List for Importers provides a list of some of the most commonly imported commodities that may require permits and/or certificates. More comprehensive information can be found in Memoranda Series D19, Acts and Regulations of Other Government Departments.
Additionally, if you are importing alcohol or tobacco products it is recommended that you check with the applicable authority in your province or territory.
The CBSA requires certain goods to be clearly marked with the country of origin. More information on marking requirements is found in Memorandum D11-3-1, Marking of Imported Goods.
Certain goods are subject to measures under the Special Import Measures Act (SIMA). The special measures available under the SIMA include anti-dumping duties, countervailing duties and undertakings. Consult the monthly index of products subject to SIMA and refer to Memoranda Series D14, Special Imports Measures Act and D15, Special Import Measures Act – Investigations for more information.
Before you import certain goods into Canada, you must determine whether they are subject to domestic controls. Under the Defence Production Act (DPA) and the Controlled Goods Regulations, any person who examines, possesses or transfers controlled goods domestically is legally required to register with Public Works and Government Service's (PWGSC) Controlled Goods Program (CGP).
A full list of controlled items in Canada is available in the Schedule to the DPA and to further establish if the goods you will be importing are controlled in Canada, please see PWGSC's Guide to the New Schedule to the Defence Production Act.
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