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Canada - Customs and Import Duties

Those who are moving to Canada to live are able to ship their household possessions to the country although there are a number of regulations which need to be taken into consideration first. If you are going to be living in the country for a minimum of 12 months or on a temporary work visa for a minimum of 36 months then you are able to import your personal possessions provided you have owned them and used them before you moved to the country. There will be no import duty in this instance.

There are some exceptions to this though, for example those who have lived in the country previously will need to follow a different set of rules. These are subject to change at any time and details can be obtained directly from the CBSA. Their website has a number of publications which are available to download and which will give you the latest information on import procedures and regulations.

When you prepare your shipment of goods to enter the country you will need to have a complete list of everything that you are bringing with you. You should have 2 copies of the list and details of the items should include the brand name, serial numbers if applicable and estimated values. If you are bringing jewellery you should include photographs and insurance appraisal details. The list should have 2 distinct sections. The first should have the goods that are being shipped with you and the second should be a list of items that are following on. Anything that follows on that is not on the list will incur import duty.

When you arrive you will need to hand this list to the border official. You will be given a copy of a completed form called ‘Personal Effects Accounting Document’ and will give you a file number. This is a receipt for your documentation. You need to keep this form as you will not be able to get your goods shipped duty free.

The duty free aspect of the shipping applies providing you keep the goods for the first 12 months that you are in the country. If you dispose of items then you will be liable for the applicable duties. The goods that are permitted duty free include furnishings, linens, appliances and other personal possessions.

There are restrictions on a number of items such as alcohol and tobacco. For example, you are able to bring into Canada 1.5 litres of wine, 8.5 litres of beer or up to 1.14 litres of other alcoholic drinks before you are expected to pay duty. Some provinces allow you to bring in more so it is worth checking with the customs department of the individual province. The maximum amount of tobacco that you can bring to Canada is 200 cigarettes, 200 grams of tobacco or 50 cigars.

There are also many items which cannot be shipped into Canada as they are prohibited. Firearms and ammunition, some clothing and textiles are restricted, foods, plants and some animal products, some endangered animal species, items considered to be obscene, items which can be used to incite hate, some prescription drugs and some antique items cannot be brought into the country. You would need to provide the exact details on any item that may fall into one of these categories in order for it to be considered for import.

Duty rates are subject to change but a call to the CBSA should give you the latest information if you are shipping goods for which duty is payable. All items that are shipped into the country are inspected before they are released to you and if you are shipping a container filled with goods then you can expect this to take up to several weeks. If duties are payable you will find that some items will not be released until the duty has been paid.

Import agents are commonly used by those who are moving to the country. This makes the whole process much easier and can take care of a lot of the red tape on your behalf. You will still need to provide lists of all the items that you are bringing into the country.

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