Importing by mail
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International mail centres
The CBSA has implemented protective measures for all CBSA staff, including social distancing protocols and the use of personal protective equipment.
With mail volume increasing significantly across Canada, there may be delays at the 3 international mail centres. You may track your mail items via the Canada Post website. The CBSA is unable to provide information on the status of mail items.
We thank you for your patience as we continue to work closely with Canada Post to process international mail without compromising the health, safety and security of Canadians.
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, always keeping the safety of Canadians in mind. When we process your mail items, we are looking to ensure the goods do not cause harm and if we suspect they will, we will examine these packages more closely.
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Our role at the border
We facilitate legitimate imports, while evaluating any goods that could threaten the safety and security of Canada.
There are various reasons why we screen mail, including:
- determining duties and taxes (tariff rating)
- examining prohibited, regulated and controlled goods
Cannabis and the border
Declaration of goods
When mailing goods 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 us to correctly assess the imported goods, but it also helps speed up the clearance process for the package.
Times for mail items to clear customs vary on a case-by-case basis. We release most parcels, packages and letters after initial inspection. This means that it can take less than a day from the time the item is presented to us to the time it is released to Canada Post for delivery.
However, we will refer an item for further inspection if we have concerns that it:
- may not be allowed into Canada
- is wrongly labeled
- contains contraband
You may experience delays receiving your mail items if they are referred for additional processing.
Depending on the nature of the item, we will conduct a secondary inspection or we will involve another government department or agency (for example, Health Canada or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) before we allow it to continue in the postal process.
In cases where prohibited goods are detected, we will take the appropriate enforcement action.
If one of our officers determines that your mail item is not high-risk or prohibited from entering Canada and is not subject to duties and taxes, we will release the item to Canada Post for delivery.
Duties and taxes
We collect 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 are subject to duty and/or tax. If the item is duty-free and tax exempt, no amount is charged.
Tracking your mail items
We are unable to provide a precise tracking of any mail items (packages or letters) 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. Your item may also be under the inspection of another government department.
Volumes during peak periods
We regularly monitor our operations and will adjust our staffing levels based on changes like increases in e-commerce (online shopping) and seasonal volume fluctuations.
Process for international mail and packages (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.
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