Importing is a regulated process. If you wish to buy products from other countries, you will need to comply with a variety of regulations.
The importing process can often seem overwhelming, due to the amount of paperwork and the number of different rules and regulations that you need to consider. This document provides you with the guidance you need to navigate this process when buying goods from other countries.
Registering for an import/export account
Before you start importing, you must register your business for an import/export account.
- Business Number (BN)
Your Business Number is your single account number for dealing with the government regarding GST/HST, payroll, import/export and other activities.
Navigating the border
There is nothing worse than having your goods turned away at the border or being held up at customs because you didn't complete the proper paperwork. Before you place your import order, be sure that you understand the rules and regulations involved in clearing your goods through customs.
- Determine if the goods you want to import are prohibited from entering Canada
- Determine if the goods are subject to any restrictions that would require you to obtain approvals or permits before importing them
- Know how to classify the goods (tariff classification) and how any tariffs, duties or taxes are calculated
- Ensure that your supplier meets all Canadian labelling and marking requirements
- Ensure that you use a shipping company that understands and complies with customs formalities
- Make sure that all required paperwork is ready to be examined along with your shipment
- Be prepared to pay the duties and taxes owing.
All of this information and more can be found in the Step-by-Step guide to Importing Commercial Goods into Canada:
- SIMA self-assessment guide
Find out if you need to pay duties under the Special Import Measures Act for imported goods that cost less than they would in the country of export.
- Border Information Service
Get telephone assistance to help you comply with border and customs regulations.
- NAFTA Cross Border Movement of Business Persons
Learn about temporary entry into the United States and Mexico as a business person under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
- Customs Tariff
Use the Customs Tariff to determine the classification of your imported and exported goods and the rate of duty you may need to pay on your imports.
- Step-by-Step Guide to Importing Commercial Goods into Canada
Learn the basics of the commercial importing process.
- Centre of Administration for Permissions — Food, Animals, Plants
Find answers to your questions about domestic and import licences, permits, and registrations issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
- Canadian Economic Sanctions
Be aware of the Canadian sanctions that prohibit or restrict economic activity with specific countries, organizations and individuals.
- Export and import controls
Get permission to export or import products related to agriculture, firearms, logs, softwood lumber, steel, textiles, clothing, the military and more.
- Advance rulings for tariff classification
Get confirmation on the rate of duty that will apply to goods you plan to import.
- Permits and licences
Find the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal permits and licences that you may need to start or manage your business.
Warehousing or storing your shipment
When you are bringing goods across the border, you have the option of moving them to a facility that is convenient to you, before they clear customs. The goods remain under the control of the Canada Border Services Agency while being stored. There are several different options for storing your goods.
- Warehousing or storing your shipment
Learn about storing your goods in sufferance warehouses, bonded warehouses and places of safekeeping before they are released from customs.
Complying with importing regulations is essential, but you may also want to read about policies and programs that may make it easier for you to import or save money on duties and tariffs.
- Simplifying trade
Learn about programs that improve the flow of goods through the border or that save you from paying duties.
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