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Plan ahead, transmit data and meet Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) importing requirements so that e-commerce shipments can be processed easily and quickly.
Both commercial and non-commercial (casual/personal) goods may enter Canada on a commercial conveyance. There are some differences to keep in mind depending on the goods you are importing.
High-volume shipments must follow all existing CBSA processes and procedures, including providing cargo and invoice data for each order.
This section does not cover the specific restrictions that apply to shipments imported through the Courier Low Value Shipment (CLVS) program.
Before arriving at the border
Smooth processing starts before your shipment arrives at the border.
Know the customs requirements
Border services officers will not release shipments without complete and accurate cargo and accounting information. You must provide the CBSA with data related to Advanced Commercial Information (ACI)/eManifest and Other Government Departments.
Before preparing to import your goods into Canada, read:
To learn what permits, certificates, and inspections you may need to bring your goods into Canada, read:
- Other government departments and agencies: reference list for importers
- Departmental memoranda series D19: Acts and Regulations of Other Government Departments
Prepare for fast and easy examination and release
The CBSA has the right to examine shipments at the first point of arrival. For the fast and easy examination and release of high-volume shipments being transported by highway conveyance, request release from a licenced warehouse.
For the majority of goods, we can transmit the electronic confirmation of release when your conveyance arrives at a licensed warehouse. The licenced warehouse can set aside any goods that the CBSA needs to examine. The rest of the shipments can be authorized for immediate delivery.
Avoid requesting release at the first point of arrival with high-volume shipments. It can take a long time to locate a specific shipment for examination and can also be costly for you because highway offload service fees are charged by the hour. Conveyances should be loaded in a way that allows the driver easy access to any shipment for examination purposes.
Reporting high-volume shipments
When transmitting information using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), take special steps to make sure processing goes smoothly.
Transmit information as early as possible
Send cargo, conveyance, house bill and release information as early as possible in advance of arrival to give customs and other government departments enough time to review.
Reduce strain on the system
To the extent possible, send large data transmissions outside of regular business hours, and in small batches. For example, send only 250 house bills or supplementary documents in 10-minute intervals.
Electronic Data Interchange requirements and limitations
The Electronic Commercial Client Requirements Documents (ECCRDs) have information about the electronic document reporting limitations, technical requirements and approved processes to use for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) transmission options.
The following table shows important EDI reporting limitations to follow when transmitting high-volume shipments. Refer to Customs Notice 20-24, CBSA reporting patterns IT limitations for more information.
|Integrated import declaration (IID) to cargo relationship
|Number of cargo control numbers (CCN) reported on an IID cannot exceed 999
|reported on a release on minimum documentation (RMD) to cargo relationship
|Number of CCNs RMD cannot exceed 99
|Highway conveyance to cargo relationship
|Number of CCNs reported on a highway conveyance cannot exceed 1,500
|Rail conveyance to cargo relationship
|Number of CCNs reported on a rail conveyance cannot exceed 2,000
|House bill closed to house bill relationship
|Number of house bills reported on a house bill close cannot exceed 999
|Cargo to supplementary cargo relationship
|Number of supplementary cargos related to a cargo document cannot exceed 1,500
|IID invoice lines
|Number of invoice lines on an IID, pre-arrival review system (PARS) or RMD cannot exceed 999 overall regardless of the number or combination of multi-line invoices used in the transmission
Release of high-volume shipments
As the importer, or owner of the goods, you are responsible for providing all of your accounting documentation for your shipment, even if you use the services of a licenced agent.
Invoice information for release
Each separate online order must have its own invoice information, with details of the transaction, including the names and addresses of the seller and buyer. The CBSA needs to clearly determine:
- who has ordered the goods coming into Canada
- what they are
- where they have come from
- to whom they are being delivered
Get a business number
Before importing commercial goods into Canada, as a business or an individual, you will need to get a business number from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for an import/export account. For more information, please refer to the Business number registration page.
The importer cannot be the logistics company, carrier, or third party service provider involved in the transportation of the shipment. For example, a freight forwarder that arranges transportation may not identify themselves as the importer of the goods when another party purchased them.
Using a customs broker’s business number
If you are a business or individual in Canada looking to import e-commerce goods on occasion, it can be unrealistic for you to get a business number. This can apply to:
- one-time importers, or
- those with commercially processed personal shipments
In those cases, you can use a customs broker’s business number to make it easier to clear your shipments. Read more about this in Memorandum D17-1-5, Registration, Accounting and Payment for Commercial Goods.
Brokers who use their assigned business number in accordance with Memorandum D17-1-5 must be sure to have the proper authority (Agency Agreement) in place with the importer, which allows them to do business with the CBSA on behalf of the importer.
When an importer is not eligible to get their own business number (BN), a customs broker can submit a single release transaction to process multiple shipments of commercial or non-commercial casual goods using their respective one-time BN.
The customs broker must provide invoice information for all related transactions that led to the goods being imported into Canada, including the name and address of each commercial/non-commercial casual goods importer and consignee.
There are additional requirements a non-resident importer (NRI)* must meet:
- have a business number from the Canada Revenue Agency
- approval from the CBSA to maintain your books and records outside of Canada (only in the U.S. or Mexico)
- CBSA permission for your broker or designated representative (for example, attorney, accountant, etc.) to maintain your books and records for you in Canada
For information on how to get approval, consult Memorandum D17-1-21, Maintenance of Records in Canada by Importers.
* a non-resident importer (NRI) is an importer whose fixed place of business is located in a country other than Canada.
- Business number registration
- Learn about customs brokers
- Memorandum D1-4-1, CBSA Invoice Requirements
- Memorandum D1-6-1, Authority to Act as Agent
- Memorandum D17-1-4, Release of Commercial Goods
- Memorandum D17-1-5, Registration, Accounting and Payment for Commercial Goods
- Memorandum D17-1-21, Maintenance of Records in Canada by Importers
Refunds for high-volume shipments
“Casual goods” are goods not intended for commercial sale. Specifically, these goods will attract PST or HST, where applicable, as well as customs duties and the goods and services tax (GST) upon importation into Canada.
Under certain conditions, importers may be eligible for a refund or adjustment of duties and taxes collected on non-commercial (casual) goods imported into Canada.
Refunds for non-commercial (casual) goods that are commercially accounted for by a customs broker (as agent of the owner or importer of the goods) are considered casual refunds.
Only the owner or importer of the goods may ask for a casual refund by submitting a Form B2G, Informal Adjustment Request and supporting documentation to one of the CBSA’s Casual Refund Centres.
Refunds for non-commercial (casual) goods that are commercially imported under a business number that does not belong to the owner, importer or their agent in Canada (for example, a non‑resident importer) are considered commercial refunds.
To request a commercial refund, the business number holder must submit Form B2, Canada Customs Adjustment Request using the commercial adjustment process.
Note: The commercial adjustment process does not issue a refund cheque for a credit of GST. The reimbursement is done through an Input Tax Credit with the Canada Revenue Agency.
- Memorandum D6-2-6, Refund of Duties and Taxes on Non-commercial Importations
- See Memorandum D17-2-1, The Coding, Submission and Processing of Form B2 Canada Customs Adjustment Request for more information on commercial adjustment requests (including refunds)
- Commercial export: The basics of reporting commercial exports
- Importing goods into Canada: A guide to importing
- Commercial importing reporting requirements
- Other government departments and agencies: Reference list for importers
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