Archive for the ‘Canada Customs’ Category


ACI eManifest Exemption for Empty Containers


Instruments of International Trade (IIT) such as empty shipping tanks, pallets, baskets, bins, boxes, cartons, crates, totes and trays, also known as Ottawa File and Container Banks, may be exempt from ACI eManifest submission regulations for highway and rail carriers. As noted in the Electronic Commerce Client Requirements Document (ECCRD), these containers must be registered under Ottawa file and issued container bank numbers in order to be exempt.

In order to qualify the containers for the ACI eManifest transmission exemption, carriers must still transmit conveyance data as well as the following additional steps:

  1. Include the IIT indicator in the cargo submission.
  2. Verbally report the IIT to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer at the First Port of Arrival.

The determination of whether the equipment qualifies as an IIT and its classification are the responsibility of the importer/customs broker and must be reported and accounted for at the first time of arrival in Canada.

Where a Container Bank has been authorized by CBSA, a company can import containers or a like quantity of similar containers on a duty and tax free basis. To operate a Container Bank, a company must apply in writing to the CBSA for authorization. The letter requesting permission to operate a Container Bank should be sent to the Manager of Regional Programs in the applicable region.

Have you used or are you contemplating using a Container Bank? If you have used the program in the past what are the advantages and disadvantages you have faced? Share your experiences in the comments section below or email us at Ask Your Broker.

ACI eManifest Requirements for Tow Truck Operators

Tow truck operators towing a vehicle across the border into Canada are classified as carriers by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Therefore in some cases, like other highway carriers, tow truck operators and towed equipment owners may be required to transmit cargo and conveyance data in the form of an ACI eManifest to CBSA.

CBSA has implemented an Interim Policy for ACI requirements for empty tow truck conveyances and tow trucks hauling disabled commercial vehicles.

Interim Policy Guidelines

  • An empty tow truck
    Requires only a verbal report at the First Port of Arrival (FPOA) from the tow truck operator. No ACI eManifest is required.
  • Towing a disabled private vehicle
    Requires only a verbal report at FPOA from the tow truck operator. No ACI eManifest is required.
  • Towing a disabled tractor
    A verbal report by the tow truck operator can be made at FPOA. Additionally, the empty conveyance data may be transmitted to CBSA by the carrier/owner of the disabled tractor.
  • Towing an empty trailer
    A verbal report by the operator can be made at FPOA. Additionally, the carrier/owner of the disabled trailer may transmit empty conveyance data to the CBSA.
  • Towing a loaded trailer with tractor
    The carrier/owner of disabled trailer must transmit cargo and conveyance data to CBSA. Both the Cargo Control Number (CCN) and the Conveyance Reference Number (CRN) (one of which must be bar-coded) must be provided to the tow truck operator to provide to the Border Services Officer (BSO) at the FPOA.
  • Towing a loaded trailer with no tractor
    The carrier/owner of the disabled trailer can transmit cargo data to CBSA. The bar-coded CCN must be provided to the tow truck operator for reporting to the BSO at the FPOA.

Are you a tow truck operator? Have questions or comments about ACI eManifest and the above requirements for tow truck operators? Leave them in the comments sections below or contact our Carrier Relations Liaison at 855.542.6644 or by email at Carrier Help Desk.

How Long Does It Take To Process a Canadian Customs Entry With Pacific Customs Brokers?


Processing times are dependent on the completeness of documentation received, the complexity of the shipment and the amount of time required by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Other Government Departments (OGD) to provide accepted status. Although some shipments can be processed in a matter of minutes, others require more attention to detail. All shipments cleared with Pacific Customs Brokers receive a high level of scrutiny in order to proactively work towards our client’s compliance record.

Standard Processing Times

Receipt and prioritization for processing = 30 minutes

Once shipment documentation is received, it will be placed in a queue based on the estimated time of arrival (ETA) at the specified port. This process can take a maximum of 30 minutes.

Review of documentation = 2 hours
It may take up to two hours to review each shipment to ensure that all necessary information and documentation required for entry into Canada has been received including:

Required Documents

  • Canada customs or commercial invoice
  • Certificate or permit required by participating government agencies (if applicable)
  • Certificate for applicable free trade agreements (if applicable)

Required Invoice Information

  • Vendor name and address
  • Importer name and address
  • Commodity description
  • Country of manufacture
  • Quantity and weight
  • Value
  • Condition of sale
  • Currency of settlement
  • Reference number

Required OGD Information

  • These agencies require specific information and documentation depending on the department and shipment commodity.

Tip: Unsure if your shipment is subject to OGD review? Click here to check.

Entry processing of complete documentation = 30 minutes
Processing the shipment can commence once all required information and documentation is received. On average it takes 30 minutes to enter and transmit a shipment’s information to CBSA and applicable OGDs such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

CFIA review = 1 hour
If the shipment has goods regulated by the CFIA, processing times may increase by one hour.

CBSA review = 1 hour
Always allow up to one hour for CBSA to accept a shipment’s release request.

Top Reasons a Shipment is Not Accepted For Entry Within These Timelines

  1. Insufficient notice of shipment: Shipment documentation was provided less than 3 hours prior to arrival at the port of crossing and therefore not allowing the customs broker to succeed in obtaining an accepted status with CBSA.
  2. Missing documentation and/or information: If any information or documentation is missing, steps are taken to obtain it either through the importer of record (IOR) or the carrier. Missing information and or documentation will always result in delayed processing times.
  3. Highly complex entry: Some entries take longer to obtain accepted status due to their complexity and or amount of commodities listed on the invoice.
  4. Client account matter in pending status: Accounts are required to be in good standing in order for the customs broker to adequately work on the importer’s behalf. For example, if the customs broker is awaiting receipt of a signed Power of Attorney (POA), they are unable to process the entry until its receipt, regardless of having received complete shipment documentation.

Minimum Documentation Submission Times

Considering the timelines noted above, it is highly recommended that carriers submit shipment documentation utilizing the following guidelines:

Shipment Contains

Goods not regulated by OGDs

OGD regulated goods

CFIA regulated goods

Time Required Prior to Port Arrival

3 hours

4 hours

5 hours

Tip: Further steps can be taken by the carrier to ensure efficient border crossing. Click here for additional steps.

Pacific Customs Brokers understands the many variables that can change anticipated timelines. Every effort is made to ensure accepted status is obtained from CBSA prior to the carrier’s estimated time of arrival at the port of crossing despite the amount of time available to clear the shipment.

How To Check The Status of Your Shipment

It is recommended that carriers check the status of their shipments into Canada at least one hour prior to arrival at the port in order to mitigate delays. Carriers can check the status of the release with Pacific Customs Brokers in any of the following ways:

iPhone App

Mobile Website

PARS Lookup

Text Message

Phone Us

Available free via the App Store

Available via the internet browser on mobile devices

Available via our homepage

Sign up to receive a text the moment your shipment is accepted

Available to you 24/7, 365 day a year

Have questions or comments regarding the processing times outlined above? Have you used any of the listed methods of checking your shipment status? Share your experiences with us. Leave them in our comments section below or email Ask Your Broker.

6 Steps to Submitting Documentation to Your Customs Broker

There are many steps a carrier can take to ensure efficient entry into Canada prior to arrival. We have compiled 6 steps below.

Prior to Arrival

Step 1: Match loaded shipment to shipment paperwork

After loading, ensure that the documentation provided to you matches what was loaded on/in the trailer as well as what was transmitted to Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) via eManifest.  Ensure the cargo control number (CCN) or Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS) transmitted via eManifest matches what is provided to the customs broker.  Pay particular attention to commodity descriptions and piece counts. If the piece count or commodity differs, notify your dispatch. Do not send inaccurate documentation to the customs broker. This step helps to avoid inadvertently importing undeclared goods.

Step 2: Identify the customs broker for the shipment

Ensure you are aware of the customs broker in charge of submitting the entry to CBSA and obtain their current contact information. Once you have identified the customs broker, find their contact information by visiting their website. Submitting customs documentation to the incorrect broker or incorrect fax number or email address will result in the shipment not being accepted upon your initial request.

Step 3: Ensure you have all the paperwork needed to clear the shipment

Documentation includes the shipment invoice noting the commodities, piece count and weight actually loaded on the truck. Additional documentation can include phytosanitary certificates, certificates of origin and other documents that Other Government Departments (OGD) require in order to accept the load for entry into Canada. Please note however that in some cases, the carrier is only required to submit a bill of lading and PARS barcode with a reference number relating to paperwork previously submitted to the custom broker by the importing client. Missing information will result in processing delays with the customs broker.

Step 4: Prepare the documents for submission to the customs broker

  1. Place a bar-coded PARS sticker on each customs invoice. Ensure the PARS number matches what was transmitted via eManifest.  One PARS sticker can be used for each individual pickup and/or drop unless the load is from a consolidated warehouse. For more information on the difference between a consolidated and non-consolidated load please read our blog post entitled The No. 1 Contentious Issue with ACI eManifest – Consolidation.
  2. Under the PARS bar-code, write:
    1. The port in which you will be crossing into Canada.
    2. The estimated date and time of arrival (ETA) at the port of crossing with as much accuracy as possible.
  3. Include your name and contact information in case the broker needs to clarify or obtain additional information about the shipment.

Missing PARS bar-codes can result in Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS) penalties, eManifest complications and/or delay in processing with the customs broker. Inaccurate ETA’s can backlog a customs broker and also delay processing time. Missing driver contact information inhibits the broker’s ability to contact the driver if there are any missing or illegible aspects of the documentation received.

Step 5: Submit the customs documentation in PDF format to the customs broker

Using the contact information obtained in step 2, carriers should submit all paperwork provided, including the information listed in step 4, to the customs broker. Often, attachments of word documents or picture files can be illegible to the customs broker. Therefore, ensuring the documentation is sent in PDF format can be the difference between expedited or delayed processing if the customs broker must contact the driver to request legible documentation. 

Please note: In addition to submitting customs documentation to the customs broker to obtain accepted entry status with CBSA, carriers are also responsible for reporting goods imported into Canada via ACI eManifest. Pacific Custom Brokers provides eManifest filing services for carriers. In those cases where Pacific Customs Brokers is both the customs broker for the shipment and the chosen eManifest service provider for the carrier, the carrier can include the ACI eManifest request sheet with their submission of customs documentation.

6. Check the acceptance status of the shipment

Ensure your shipment has received accepted status at least one hour prior to arriving at the port of crossing. At that time, if your shipment is not accepted for entry, you can work to rectify the issue prior to arriving at the port. Also ensure that the Cargo and Conveyance eManifest submission has received acceptance status.

Upon Arrival

On arrival at the border, present a machine readable bar-code to the Border Services Officer. This bar-code links the cargo data transmission to the information CBSA has in their system. The preferred option is a bar-coded Conveyance Reference Number (CRN) but a bar-coded Cargo Control Number (CCN) can be provided or both a bar-coded CRN and CCN. The CBSA officer will stamp the sheet with the bar-code as “proof of report”.

“Proof of release” can be obtained by obtaining a stamp on the PARS documents from the Border Services Officer at the time the cargo is released at first port of arrival or through  CBSA’s Release Notification System/RNS.

Are there additional steps you take to ensure efficient entry? Have questions or comments regarding the steps we have outlined? Leave them in our comments section below or email Ask Your Broker.

PARS and ACI – Understanding the Border Crossing Process



Understanding the Pre-arrival Review System

The Pre-arrival Review System (PARS) allows customs brokers to submit shipment release information (provided by the importer and carrier) to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for review and processing before the goods arrive in Canada. This speeds up the shipment release or referral for examination process for when the carrier arrives with the freight at the border. In order for the system to be successful, all trade chain partners need to do their part.

At Shipment Pickup

The carrier’s role is vital to the PARS process. At the time the freight is picked up from the shipper, the carrier will affix a PARS sticker/label to the commercial documents and forward them to the customs broker so they can set up the shipment with the CBSA, in advance.

The PARS sticker/label

The PARS sticker/label is made up of your carrier code and combined with a unique shipment number. This “PARS” or Cargo Control Number (CCN) is critical because it identifies both the carrier and the shipment to the CBSA at the time of reporting and when release documents are presented.

When faxing, or emailing commercial documents to the customs broker the carrier must advise them of

  • The port of crossing
  • The estimated date and time of arrival
  • The carrier’s contact information – in case the customs broker needs to reach you
Providing the customs broker and CBSA sufficient processing time will prevent a carrier or their drivers from being delayed at the border. It also allows the customs broker time to reach out to other trade chain partners if additional information is required.

Before heading to the Canadian border

Under the PARS process, the customs broker will submit the release information to the CBSA either electronically or in paper format — depending on the release requirements for the goods being shipped. Goods that require permits, licenses or certificates will require additional processing time using PARS.

ACI eManifest

With the advent of ACI eManifest making the transmission of pre-arrival conveyance and cargo data mandatory, effective January 11, 2016, carriers now have one more obligation to fulfill prior to heading to the border.

It is important to note that while the customs clearance process and ACI eManifest are closely linked, they are two separate and distinct things. In other words, you cannot just send all of your information to the customs broker and expect that they will set up your PARS for clearance and file your emanifest. Conversely, you cannot send that same data to your eManifest service provider and expect that they will file your eManifest and set up your PARS. The exception to this rule would be in situations where the customs broker clearing the shipment is also an emanifest service provider as is the case with Pacific Customs Brokers and its eManifest filing service, Border Pro.

Always verify that the shipment has been set up and that you are good to proceed to the border. You can verify the status of your shipment by calling the customs broker directly or by using their online PARS lookup tool.

At the Canadian border:

When you or your driver arrive at the Customs booth, the Customs officer checks all the commercial paperwork presented, and uses the bar-coded cargo control number on the PARS stickers to get access to the recommendation and also to determine whether or not the shipment can be released.

It is important for carriers to remember that the best way to ensure a smooth and seamless border crossing is to get all paperwork for both the customs clearance and eManifest sent as soon as possible. The more time that the broker has to review documentation, the better the chances are that your shipment will be in “accepted” status when you arrive and your truck will roll right through.


Did You Know?

Pacific Customs Brokers’ Border Pro for Carriers service was created to help carriers, truckers, drivers, dispatchers and self-carrying importers seamlessly clear customs while saving time and money. Border Pro for Carriers eManifest filing services can assist you in submitting all relevant information to Canada Customs within the required time period to ensure your trucks cross the border as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What has your experience been crossing the Canadian border?  Share them in our comments section below or email us at Ask Your Broker.