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Importing goods by courier
If your goods are for personal use, your courier company may take care of the customs details for you. Verify the shipping and handling fees that may apply prior to completing your purchase.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) screens all goods coming into Canada and examines more closely those that may pose a threat to the safety of Canadians. The Agency uses risk management principles to expedite international trade mail without compromising the safety and security of Canadians.
The CBSA screens mail for multiple reasons, including:
- trade facilitation
- tariff rating
- examinations for prohibited and controlled goods
The Agency is committed to facilitating the free flow and legitimate trade of low risk goods, while protecting local communities from illicit goods.
Process for international mail and parcels (Canada Post)
- Step 1 Mail items presented by Canada Post
- Step 2 Primary inspection
- Step 3 Secondary inspection or package released
- Step 4 Enforcement action / seizure or package released
Upon arrival in Canada, all international mail items are presented by Canada Post to the CBSA for processing (6 days a week from to (local time)). CBSA mail processing centres are located in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
Border Services Officers (BSOs) examine mail to determine admissibility and identify goods subject to duties or taxes. BSOs select items that are potentially high-risk and require a more in-depth examination based on indicators.
If the BSO determines that a mail item is not high-risk or prohibited from entering Canada and is not subject to duties or taxes, the item is released to Canada Post for delivery.
Most parcels/letters are released after initial inspection.
If there are concerns that the item may be inadmissible, wrongly labeled or contain contraband it will be referred for further inspection. Depending on the nature of the item, this secondary inspection will either be conducted by the CBSA or by another government department or agency (Health Canada, CFIA, etc.) before it can continue in the postal process.
If after secondary examination a good is found to be admissible and once the appropriate duties and taxes are applied, it will be released to Canada Post for delivery.
In cases where prohibited goods are detected, the CBSA will take appropriate enforcement action.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average time to process a package?
Times for packages to clear customs vary. Most parcels and letters are released after initial inspection, meaning it can take less than a day from the time the item is presented to the CBSA to the time it is released to Canada Post.
However, based on multiple factors and a risk-management approach, the CBSA may require time to further inspect and process the good which may include referring it to the proper authorities (Health Canada, CFIA, etc.) for their review. The time to complete the secondary inspection varies on a case by case basis.
My Canada Post tracking number shows the status as "Item presented to the CBSA for customs review," can you please provide a status update on my packages status?
The CBSA is unable to provide a precise tracking of parcels being processed. The Agency works to clear all packages as quickly as possible. Delays can occur due to the package itself, its documentation or volumes at customs.
For multiple days my tracking information has shown "Item presented to the CBSA for customs review," does that mean it is still under control of the CBSA?
While the item may still be under inspection by the CBSA or another government department, there is a chance the package may have been released to Canada Post and is being processed.
Does the CBSA process mail 7 days a week, 24 hours a day?
The Agency processes international mail 6 days a week from to (local time) at three CBSA mail centres across Canada (Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal).
Does the CBSA increase staff or operational levels during peak periods, like Christmas, to assist with the higher-than-normal volumes?
The CBSA is well equipped to address volumes. The Agency regularly monitors its operations and will adjust its staffing levels based on changes like increases in e-commerce (online shopping) and seasonal volume fluctuations.
Declaration of goods
When a good is mailed to Canada from abroad, the sender completes a customs declaration form which outlines the information found within Appendix A of D5-1-1, Canada Border Services Agency International Mail Processing System.
Did You Know? A proper declaration must be made on any items being imported by mail. This not only allows the CBSA to correctly assess the imported goods, but will help speed up the clearance process for the parcel.
Duties and taxes
The CBSA collects duty and taxes on imported items (including all online shopping), on behalf of the Government of Canada.
Duties and taxes apply to all international goods imported by mail that exceed the $20 exemption. If you owe duty and/or tax, it will be indicated on Form E14, CBSA Postal Import Form, which will be attached to your mail item when it is delivered.
Note: Canada Post charges a handling fee to process goods imported by mail that is subject to duty and/or tax. If the item is duty-free and tax exempt, no amount is charged.
- Determining duty and taxes owed
- Paying duty and/or taxes on imported goods
- Disputing duty and taxes
- Applying for a refund of duty and taxes
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