Our Border Crossing Tips help guide you through some of the most commonly asked questions shoppers face when crossing the Canada – US border.
Make sure you carry proper identification for yourself and any children traveling with you, regardless of their age, to assist in confirming your legal right or authorization to enter Canada upon your return. Proper identification includes a Canadian passport, a Canadian birth certificate, a permanent residence card, a citizenship card or a certificate of Indian Status.
Traveling alone with minors
All adults traveling alone with minor children are strongly recommended to have a letter authorizing them to take the children on a trip out of the country. The letter should include addresses and telephone numbers where the parents or legal guardian can be reached and will confirm that the children are not being abducted or taken against their will. Border services officers watch for missing children may ask detailed questions about the children who are traveling with you.
Divorced/separated parents who share custody of their children should carry copies of the legal custody documents.
When you return to Canada
When you return to Canada, you have to declare all the goods you acquired while outside Canada, such as purchases, gifts, prizes or awards that you are bringing with you or are having shipped to you. Include goods still in your possession that you bought at a Canadian or foreign duty-free shop. As well, make sure you declare any repairs or alterations you made to your vehicle while you were out of the country.
If you aren’t sure if an article is admissible or should be declared, always declare it first and then ask the border services officer.
Making your declaration
When you declare items, they may be inspected by a Canada Border Services Agency Officer, and possibly a Canadian Food Inspection Agency Inspector, to determine their eligibility for import. If an item is allowed into Canada and is not prohibited, it will be returned to you. If the item is prohibited, it will be confiscated or you could be asked to obtain an import certificate or permit.
If you are returning to Canada by rail, vessel or bus, you may receive a Form E311, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Declaration Card, to complete before you arrive. If you have any questions about the card or Canadian regulations, please ask the border services officer when you arrive.
If you arrive in Canada in a private vehicle such as an automobile, aircraft or bus, you can usually make an oral declaration.
If you are declaring goods claimed as part of your CAN$750 exemption that preceded or will follow your arrival in Canada, ask the border services officer for a Form E24, Personal Exemption CBSA Declaration. You will need your copy of the form to claim these goods; otherwise, you may have to pay the regular duty and taxes on them.
Border services officers
You may occasionally find yourself going through a more detailed inspection. In some cases, this simply means that you may have to complete a form. In other cases, the border services officer will need to identify the goods you are bringing into the country or examine your luggage.
Border services officers are legally entitled to examine your luggage. You are responsible for opening, unpacking and repacking your luggage.
By making your goods easily accessible for inspection, and having your receipts handy, you will expedite your border crossing . It is a good idea to keep all your receipts for accommodations and purchases, and for any repairs done to, or parts bought for, your vehicle. You may be asked to show them as evidence of the length of your stay and of the value of the goods or repairs.
If you disagree with the amount of duty and taxes that you have to pay, or if you have any other difficulties with the border clearance process, ask to speak to the superintendent on duty.
A consultation can often resolve the issue quickly. If you are still not satisfied, officers must tell you how to make a formal appeal.
In addition to the activities mentioned above, border services officers may arrest an individual for an offence under the Criminal Code (e.g. impaired driving, outstanding arrest warrants, stolen property, abductions/kidnappings) and for infractions under other acts of Parliament (e.g. the Customs Act). If you are arrested, you may be compelled to attend court in Canada. You should note that anyone arrested in Canada is protected by, and will be treated in accordance with, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
If you have to exchange any of the goods you brought in under your personal exemption, and you want to avoid paying more duty, you have 60 days from the date you imported them to do so. Contact Border Information Services (BIS) for more details.
If you have any questions, contact the Border Information Service (BIS) line. This is a 24-hour telephone service that automatically answers all incoming calls and provides general border services information:
Toll free in Canada by: 1-800-461-9999.
Outside Canada: 204-983-3500 or 506-636-5064 (long-distance charges apply)
If you call during regular business hours (8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. local time, Monday to Friday, except holidays), you can speak directly to an agent by pressing “0″ at any time during the recording.