Preparing for Importing Commercial Goods into Canada


It is imperative for businesses to acquire a Safe Food For Canadians (SFC) accreditation prior to presenting their shipments at the border. SFC accreditations cannot be obtained at the border.

The majority of commercially imported foods necessitate a valid SFC accreditation, including:

  • delicious treats and indulgent snacks (e.g., chips, candy, cookies, chocolates)
  • non-alcoholic beverages (e.g., tea, coffee, carbonated drinks)
  • foods made from grains (e.g., bread, cereals, pasta, baked goods)

For further details on import requirements:

1. Preparing for importation

Contents of this page

Attain a Business Number

Prior to importing commercial goods into Canada, as a business or an individual, you must obtain a Business Number (BN) issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for an import/export account. This import/export account is cost-free and can be acquired in a matter of minutes.

To register for a BN or add an import/export RM account identifier to an existing BN:

Determine the goods you intend to import

It is essential to gather as much information as possible about the goods you plan to import. Obtain descriptive brochures, details about product composition, and whenever feasible, product samples. This information will play a key role in determining the tariff classification of the goods you wish to import. The tariff clarification number will be utilized to determine the rate of duty that will be applied to your goods.

Decide if you will engage the services of an authorized customs broker

You may feel confident in handling the preparation of your release and accounting documentation and conducting business directly with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), or you may choose to authorize a Licensed Customs Broker to act as your representative for conducting business. It is important to remember that regardless of whether you employ the services of a broker, you are ultimately liable for your own accounting documentation, payment of duties and taxes, and any subsequent corrections, such as re-assessment of classification, origin, and valuation.

The CBSA grants licenses to customs brokers, enabling them to fulfill customs-related responsibilities on your behalf, facilitating the clearance of goods across the Canadian border. A broker's services typically include:

  • Facilitating the release of imported goods;
  • Settling any applicable duties;
  • Securing, preparing, and presenting or transmitting the necessary documents or data;
  • Maintaining records; and
  • Addressing any concerns raised by the CBSA subsequent to payment.

If you wish to avail the services of a broker, refer to the CBSA's licensed customs broker list.

Establish the country of origin for the goods you are importing

Identify the country where your goods originate. Remember, this simply does not mean solely the country from which the product was shipped to you. It may also encompass the individual parts' countries of origin, as well as the location where the final product was assembled.

Requirements for proof of origin can be found in Memorandum D11-4-2, Proof of Origin.

Ensure the goods you wish to import are permissible in Canada

Certain goods are prohibited from being imported into Canada. This includes evident items like child pornography and hate propaganda, as well as less obvious items such as used mattresses and some used automobiles. For more information on prohibited products, please refer to Memoranda Series D9, Prohibited Importations.

Determine if there are any permits, restrictions, or regulations applicable to the goods you plan to import

Numerous goods are subject to the requirements imposed by various government departments and agencies, and they may necessitate permits, certificates, and/or inspections. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for enforcing the import requirements mandated by other government departments.

It is important to note that multiple government departments may be involved in establishing the importation regulations and requirements for specific goods. Therefore, it is advantageous to reach out to all relevant departments that may have a role in this process.

You must ascertain whether the goods you intend to import are subject to regulations, restrictions, permits, or any other requirements. For a list of commonly imported commodities that may require permits and/or certificates, you can refer to the CBSA's Reference List for Importers of Other Government Departments and Agencies. However, for more comprehensive information, you should consult Memoranda Series D19, Acts and Regulations of Other Government Departments.

Moreover, if you are importing alcohol or tobacco products, it is advisable to contact the relevant authority in your province or territory for further guidance.

The CBSA requires specific goods to be clearly labeled with their country of origin. Memorandum D11-3-1, Marking of Imported Goods contains detailed information on the marking requirements.

Certain goods are subject to measures outlined in the Special Import Measures Act (SIMA). These measures include anti-dumping duties, countervailing duties, and undertakings. You can refer to the monthly index of products subject to SIMA and consult Memoranda Series D14, Special Imports Measures Act and D15, Special Import Measures Act – Investigations for comprehensive information on these measures.

Prior to importing certain goods into Canada, it is crucial to determine whether they are subject to domestic controls. Under the Defence Production Act (DPA) and the Controlled Goods Regulations, individuals who examine, possess, or transfer controlled goods within Canada are legally required to register with the Controlled Goods Program (CGP) administered by Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).

To obtain a complete list of controlled items in Canada, you can access the Schedule to the DPA. Additionally, for specific information on whether the goods you plan to import fall under Canadian control, please consult PWGSC's Guide to the New Schedule to the Defence Production Act.

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Last modified date: 2021-03-17

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