Archive for the ‘Non-Commercial Importing’ Category


How to Import Personal Belongings vs Casual Goods

Importing “casual goods,” and importing “personal belongings” are two completely different types of imports with two very different import procedures. They can be easily confused so let us have a closer look by first defining both types of imports.

Personal Belongings

The definition of personal belongings can vary depending on the reason for import such as settling or traveling. For the purpose of this post, we will only be looking at settling in Canada or the United States.

Personal belongings are assets owned such as clothing, toiletries, furniture, kitchenware and other items you would find in a household. Since there is no sale transaction involved most personal belongings are exempt from duty and taxes. These imports are often declared to customs by the owner of the items directly. It’s important to note that some items are restricted, controlled and prohibited so please check with customs before trying to import.

NOTE: Vehicles, although considered a personal belonging, are subject to specific import rules and time-frames required for processing. Many importers are unaware of this fact and arrive at the border unprepared. This results in significant delays which can be avoided by working with a customs broker.

Casual Goods

A casual import is a transaction where a seller and a purchaser exchange money for casual-use products. The purchaser is not operating as a business but rather “as an individual.” These goods are purchased from outside of the country and must be imported. A good example of these are online purchases via an eCommerce website.

As you can see above, your pre-owned hairbrush has a different “definition” than the hairbrush you just purchased from out of the country. As mentioned at the top of this post, each import is processed a little differently as described below.

How to Declare Personal Belongings

If you are moving to Canada or the U.S., both the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have forms available online to declare the personal goods that are traveling with you, and any to follow if they aren’t able to come in one trip. Once you have all your required forms filled out, the next step is to present them to customs at your first port of entry into the country to which you are settling.

NOTE: If you are not traveling with your goods and have instead used a third-party carrier to ship them (i.e. a container by ocean transport), then you will need to meet your goods at the port of entry and present your forms to customs at that time, which will include your carrier’s cargo control document.

How to Declare Casual Goods

This is a more intricate process, and it is strongly recommended that you hire a customs broker to ensure your compliance with the regulations, avoid unnecessary delays, and prevent monetary penalties or seizure of goods.

It’s important to note the intricacies:

  • The importer of record (IOR), also known as the person importing the goods, is held entirely responsible for all aspects of the import including the accuracy of the information presented to customs.
  • Each country’s customs authority has very specific import regulations, and these regulations must be followed. Customs considers it the importer’s responsibility to understand the regulations and does not show leniency in cases of ignorance, which can prove fatal to your import goals.
  • Each imported item has its own set of rules and import eligibility requirements. Composition, origin, value, method of transport and end-use each play a different role in steering the importation process. Inexperienced importers often find this most difficult to navigate.
  • Importers are in some cases working with multiple government organizations depending on the commodity. Customs works with Partner Government Agencies (PGAs) that regulate imported goods such as Environment Canada or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the environment, economy and inhabitants are protected.
  • Documentation requirements are commodity specific. Produce imports require different paperwork than vehicle imports.
  • Accurate calculation of duties and taxes payable are dependent on accurate interpretation of Customs Law. Without a solid understanding, miscalculations can easily occur.

The first step in this import process is to gather all information required to fill out the specific customs forms required for the entry.

Next Steps

The importer can declare the goods themselves by going to customs with all of the required information, and either meet the carrier upon arrival at the first port of entry, obtain their cargo control document, and complete a customs declaration or, hire a customs broker to work with the carrier and complete the declaration on your behalf.

Listed below are a number of resources available to you for this type of import including the step-by-step process. We have provided general regulations and links to forms required for each type of import below.

Canadian Regulations and Forms

U.S. Regulations and Forms

Declaration – Personal Belongings/Household Item (Settling)

  • Must have been in your possession while abroad.
  • Cannot be sold or otherwise disposed of within twelve months of settling.
  • If you are returning to Canada, you must have been away for no less than one year and the items must have been in your possession and use for a minimum of six months.
  • Must be in possession for more than one year
  • Must have been in your possession while aboard
  • Items cannot be be imported for sale or for the account of any other person
  • Cannot include alcoholic beverages or tobacco products

The declaration process into Canada.


The declaration process into the U.S.


Declaration – Casual Goods (Purchased Outside of Country)

A full list of steps to import into Canada for items with a value greater than $20.00. A full list of steps to import into the U.S. for items owned less than a year with a value greater than $800.00.

Declaration – Vehicles

A full list of steps to import vehicles into Canada. A full list of steps to import vehicles into the U.S.

We pride ourselves on providing helpful and useful insight into the difference between imports for casual goods and imports for personal belongings. If you are determined to do it yourself, the information you need is within this article; however, if you realize how intricate importing casual goods can be we are happy to walk you step-by-step through the process to ensure your import is as quick and painless as possible. We recommend attending one of our seminars or webinars to understand the process or call us toll-free.


Why Am I Losing Money When Shipping to Canada?

Frustrations arising from cross-border shipping to Canada are always showing up in  my Google Alerts.  Most are from online auction type sellers who really do not understand the customs clearance process. Some try to save the customer’s money by  placing a false value on the goods which can result in even more costs for false declaration and lengthier delays for the receiver in Canada. Some e-sellers  refuse to ship to Canada altogether as they feel it is too much hassle and have lost money in  the transaction or received bad feedback from buyers.

Have you been faced with this situation?

1. Why do my customers in Canada want me to ship USPS?

This could be because it is cheaper to do so.

2. When I ship via postal service why does my customer in Canada send me a message four weeks later informing me they did not receive the package and I should resend it?

It could be because there is no traceability and it might be lost or stolen.

3. When I ship using a small parcel courier why do they hold my package hostage until the customer pays all the customs charges? Often the customer refuses to pay and the parcel company ships the package back and charges me for it.

Using the small parcel courier now provides you with the ability to track your package, but does your customer in Canada know what to expect to pay in  extra customs charges when the goods are delivered? If they don’t they may feel the charges are too high and it is no longer worth buying the product.

4. When I ship using the “other” small parcel company, why do they bill me all kinds of customs charges but the customer still gets their package?

The small parcel courier is on a customs program called the Low Value Shipment Courier program (LVS), in which the courier is allowed to declare and deliver the package and then that small parcel company sends out a letter stating how much they owe in duty, taxes and brokerage. If the Canadian customer does not respond, the “other” small parcel courier’s service guide directs them to bill the charges back to the shipper for any unpaid customs charges.

“Regardless of any payment instructions to the contrary, the sender is ultimately responsible for payment of duties and taxes if payment is not received.”

5. Why is my business losing so much money when selling to Canadians?

See 2, 3, and 4 above.

Have you explored all your options when shipping and selling to customers in Canada?

Before you ship or sell your products to customers in Canada, do your homework and consider calling a Canadian customs broker who can assist you in:

  • understanding the complexities of the cross-border transaction
  • save you money in fees
  • avoid unnecessary hassles at the border and with angry Canadian customers
  • streamline your shipments for a speedy delivery and a less costly transaction

The Non-Resident Importer option may be one solution. Preparing your Canadian customer on what to expect and having a solution in place may be another. Contact us before you finalize your next sale, and we will work with you and your Canadian customer to help both of you make a smooth cross-border transaction.

Do you have further questions about shipping to Canada? Feel free to ask them in the comment section below.

Personal Exemptions for Travelers Entering Canada

Customs WalletA week ago, I participated in a trade show.   While there were some great meaningful business conversations, there were also those with questions about personal importations.   Several were inquiries about auto imports, which we always expect due to the current strength of the Canadian dollar, but many were inquiring on cross border shopping and the value of goods that can be entered into Canada without having to pay duties or taxes.

With the summer holidays quickly approaching, it is probably worth reviewing your personal exemptions:

  • Just crossed the border to fill up your gas tank?   (i.e. less than 24 hours) – $20.00 of merchandise
  • More than 24 hours but less than 48 hours?     $50.00
  • More than 48 hours but less than seven days?   $400.00
  • More than seven days?   $750.00

Of course, you hear stories every day of travelers who are in excess of their personal exemption but are still allowed to enter Canada without paying duties and taxes.   Ultimately, the decision lies with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer.   It is your obligation to declare all goods acquired for importation into Canada, whether purchased or received as gifts, and truthfully answer any questions asked by the CBSA officer.   It is at the CBSA officer’s   discretion whether or not you pay any duties and taxes.

If you use the NEXUS lane, it is strongly suggested that you review the NEXUS rules for import declarations.   Several people have mentioned that the rules have changed somewhat, but I would exercise caution.   Personally, I treat my NEXUS card like gold and would not want to risk placing it in jeopardy. I greatly value the opportunity to use the expedited lanes to enter the U.S. and return to Canada with greater ease than the regular traffic.

If you want to see the complete version covering personal exemptions, please go to the following link:

Happy shopping!

Non-Commercial Entry of Firearms

In the United States of America, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution gives its citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

Unfortunately for U.S. Citizens traveling cross-border into Canada, they sometimes forget that firearms are still a controlled item for entry into Canada, even if being entered temporarily. When traveling into Canada with your undeclared gun, firearm or other prohibited weapon, you may be refused entry, have the item in question seized, or possibly be arrested.

To legally bring your firearms into Canada, you must register it at your first point of entry using a “Non-resident Firearm Declaration” form (CAFC 909) with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). You will be required to present a fully completed form (with two additional copies) at your first point of entry.

Firearms fall into three (3) categories:

1. Non-restricted firearms:

  • An ordinary rifle, shotgun or combination gun that is not described below
    as being restricted or prohibited.

2. Restricted firearms:

  • A handgun that is not a prohibited firearm.
  • A semi-automatic, centre-fire rifle or shotgun with a barrel length less than
    470 mm (18.5 inches) that is not prohibited.
  • A rifle or shotgun that can fire when its overall length is reduced by
    folding, telescoping or some other means to less than 660 mm (26
  • Any firearm prescribed as restricted (including some long guns).

* If you are declaring a restricted firearm, you will require an Authorization to Transport (ATT). To find out how to apply for an ATT, call the Canada Firearms Centre at: 1-800-731-4000 in Canada and the USA. If you are outside Canada and the USA, please call (506) 624-5380. For further information online, please visit their web site at: before you come to Canada.   You cannot enter Canada with a restricted firearm without an ATT.

3. Prohibited firearms:

  • A handgun with a barrel length of 105 mm (4.1 inches) or less.
  • A handgun designed or adapted to discharge 25 or 32 calibre ammunition.
  • A rifle or shotgun that has been altered to make it less than 660 mm (26 inches) in overall length.
  • A rifle or shotgun that has been altered to make the barrel length less than 457 mm (18 inches) where the overall firearm length is 660 mm (26 inches) or more.
  • An automatic firearm and a converted automatic firearm.
  • Any firearm prescribed as prohibited.

* Prohibited firearms are not allowed entry into Canada.

Also note that some large-capacity magazines are prohibited even if the firearms to which the magazines are attached are allowed. As a general rule, the maximum capacity is:

  • five cartridges for most magazines designed for a centre fire semi-automatic long gun; and
  • ten cartridges for most handgun magazines

There is no maximum magazine capacity for other types of long guns, including semi-automatics that discharge only rim-fire ammunition.

You will need to declare to CBSA the purpose for traveling with your firearm, whether it”s a hunting trip, a competition, in transit movement, personal protection in wilderness areas of Canada, or other reasons.   It is always recommended to bring proof in the form of a hunting license or competition registration/advertisement should CBSA ask for it.

Once the declaration has been confirmed by a CBSA Customs officer, it acts as a license for the owner and as a temporary registration certificate for the firearms brought to Canada; and it is valid for 60 days. The declaration can be renewed for free, providing it is renewed before it expires, by contacting the Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) (call 1-800-731-4000) of the relevant province or territory.

You must be able to produce the completed declaration on demand and will require it to purchase or receive ammunition.

This information is provided solely for non-commercial purposes and in no way should be considered all inclusive.   If you have any questions about personal firearm inportations, please call 1-800-731-4000 in Canada and the USA. If you are outside Canada and the USA, please call (506) 624-5380. For further information online, please visit the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Firearm Program web site at: