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Canadian Customs Clearance:
Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently asked questions regarding Customs Clearance.

Border Bee Customs Brokers has developed digital solutions to simplify the process of Customs Clearance. We understand that the process can seem a little daunting, so we’re here to help! Here are answers to frequently asked questions.

Can you help with the Customs Clearance of Alcohol Shipments?

Are you importing alcohol into Quebec or British Columbia? If yes, we can help!

For us to assist, please make sure that the following applies to your shipment:

  • Alcohol Shipments can only be for personal or internal use (for your household or your office) or samples for a business. In other words, it cannot be for resale.
  • Alcohol Shipments have significant fees associated with them. Please get a quote using this calculator.
  • There is a limit of 45L of alcohol per shipment. You can import more than one shipment of alcohol, but if you import too often the liquor board might contact you for more information.
  • It is important to make sure that the shipment does not contain anything other than alcoholic products.

For more information on the subject, we invite you to read this blog post

Are you looking to import that limited edition bottle of wine? We have your back!

How do I open an account with Border Bee Customs Brokers?

First of all, thank you for choosing Border Bee Customs Broker! We’re happy to assist with your Customs Clearance needs.

You can open an account online here

Do I have to hire a Customs Broker to clear my shipment?

The option to self-clear is always available to you. That said, in order to self-clear you have to present yourself at the CBSA office in the city where your shipment is being held. For more information on how to self-clear, here’s a blog post we wrote to guide you on that process.

Hiring a broker is strongly recommend for most all commercial shipments, as delays in clearance can result storage and other additional transport fees if not performed expediently.

Why should I use Border Bee?

Border Bee allows importers to manage and view their entire account online.

How do I assign Border Bee Customs Brokers to my shipment? 

Please submit a clearance via your web account.

If a vendor or transporter is requesting our contact information, please find it below:

  • CUSTOMS: BORDER BEE CUSTOMS BROKERS
  • EMAIL: PARS@BORDERBEE.COM
  • FAX: (800) 491-7063

I asked UPS/DHL/FEDEX to assign you the shipment, but they just contacted me for Customs Clearance, what should I do?

Unfortunately, large integrators don’t always pay close attention to your shipments’ documents. If they are trying to clear your shipment without your permission, please contact them and let them know that the shipment should be assigned to Border Bee Customs Brokers. Unfortunately, this is not something that we can do for you, since transportation companies don’t usually allow brokers to assign themselves shipments. If you call them please make sure that you speak with their Customs Brokerage Department.

Why do I have to clear this shipment? I didn’t have to for another shipment.

 All shipments coming into the country do clear Customs, but a number of factors could mean that the clearance was done without any action on your part.

Sometimes foreign vendors have Canadian Importer Numbers and clear shipments themselves so that you don’t have to. In this case, you would not have been contacted for clearance.

Have you received a small shipment and paid fees upon delivery? That was most probably to cover the item’s Customs clearance! Smaller shipments can be delivered prior to official clearance from the CBSA, this is not the case for high-value shipments. 

What is a Commercial Invoice?

A Customs Invoice, a Commercial Invoice, an Invoice… what is the difference!? Well, there isn’t really much of a difference between them. All these terms refer to a document where the following information appears: 

  • Vendor’s information
  • Purchaser’s information
  • Description of the time
  • Value per item
  • Total Invoice Value
  • Country of Origin (where are the goods made)

Other information that is great to have on the invoice is the following: 

  • Product’s HS-CODES
  • Number of packages 
  • Weight of the products
  • Total weight of the shipment

Here is a great template to use: 

https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/forms-formulaires/ci1-eng.html

What is a Certificate of Origin, do I need one?

You’ve probably been told that if you import goods from a certain country that you wouldn’t have to pay duties. Well, that is only partly true. Here’s a breakdown of what is needed for you to be able to take advantage of trade agreements the following points:

  • The goods have to be made in the country with which we have a trade agreement
  • The goods have to be shipped from that region
  • A certificate of origin must be provided (a document that is dated and signed certifying where the goods were made in a specific country)

In other words, it is not usually enough for an invoice to simply state that good is made in a specific country to fall under the trade agreement. Moreover, certain types of goods, such as clothing, require a little more paperwork. You can read these articles for more information on that you can read this article

We’ve created an online tool to help your vendor/exporter complete a CUSMA/USCAM. You can send them this link to complete the certificate of origins for goods made in Canada, the USA, or Mexico: https://borderbee.com/auto-cusma/

How do I get a quote?

Please use our online calculator

CUSMA: short answers

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The most important thing most small business importers in Canada need to know about CUSMA is nothing. The majority of the rules will not impact you, unless your supply chain involves agriculture, dairy, the manufacture of auto parts or one of the other select industries being impacted by stricter Rules of Origin. Please find below our short answers to your questions on CUSMA:

 

Will we still be able to use our existing NAFTA certificates?

No, this is the key change. The NAFTA certificates provided by your current supplies will be redundant as of July 1st, replaced by a certification included on an invoice. We’ve created an autoCUSMA Certification wizard to help our clients transition.*

What should I do to prepare?

When ordering from your suppliers, remind them that a new certification is required to obtain duty-free status (NAFTA certificates will all be invalid as of July 1st, 2020).

How will I know if CUSMA is being claimed on my entries?

The tariff treatment (10 for USA origin goods, 11 for Mexico) has not changed.

I’m concerned my products will no longer be valid under the new Rules of Origin. How can I verify this?

Most of the Rules of Origin have not changed under the new Agreement, but you can check the new Rules of Origin here (Chapter 5 of the Agreement). Make sure you have the HS codes for your products handy, as this is the key element in determining a product’s eligibility.

Do we still require a Exporter’s Certificate of Origin for Textiles?

Yes, the procedures to import garments duty-free remains largely unchanged and a permit from Global Affairs will still be needed.

 

*Certifications under CUSMA may take any format, as long as all the required details are included (the details are found here in Annex 5-A)

Importing masks, respirators and other goods in response to COVID-19

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We’re receiving a lot of requests for more information on how to import masks and other medical equipment in response to the COVID-19 emergency. Canada Customs has issued an order relieving duty and tax on these products where they are being imported on behalf of emergency workers and government agencies.*

Please find below our best answers:

What items are considered as being for ’emergency use’ and qualify for duty relief?

Anything being imported by or the behalf of emergency health workers and government agencies in response to the COVID-19 crisis. There is no specific list, although additional documentation proving the goods qualify may be requested.

As of May 6th, most goods providing protection from contagion can now be imported duty-free, regardless of who the end user will be. A complete list is available on the CBSA website.

Do I need a special permit to import emergency goods?

For non-regulated articles only a valid business number will be required in order to import. For most medical devices (including N95 masks), an MDEL (Medical Device Establishment License) is required. Note that while Health Canada is expediting MDEL applications, you may need to pay a substantial fee to apply.

For other articles, please find a list below:

  • Denatured alcohol: only importers with a federal spirits license are able to import this product (this may change, but we’ve yet to see a notification).
  • medical devices/machines: an MDEL will likely be required. Check here to see if your business is licensed.
  • hand sanitizer: considered a Natural Health Product.
    • if for re-distribution: Usually importers will require a Drug Establishment Licence or Site Licence in order to redistribute (if the sanitizer will be re-sold to consumers, contact Health Canada first to ensure the product is eligible and you may act as the importer of record).
    • personal use or exclusively for use within your organization: If the sanitizer is meant only for use within an organization or for personal use, it can typically be imported without needing consent from Health Canada.
  • face masks (not surgical or N95): not all face masks are regulated as surgical or N95 masks and therefore not subject to additional regulation, although we have no guidance on what determines this — we recommend contacting Health Canada when in doubt (see below).
  • surgical masks: see below
  • N95 masks and respirators for redistribution
    • Rule of thumb: If you are importing Class I medical equipment (i.e. masks and gowns) for your own use or for use exclusively by your business and its employees during work  activities (i.e. not to be re-sold and redistributed), you may be considered to be the ‘ultimate consumer’ and likely exempt from requirements to obtain an MDEL. (see GUI-0016 Explanatory Notes).

 

Importing or distributing masks and respirators that aren’t approved in Canada

Manufacturers and importers may wish to import masks and respirators that haven’t been approved. Non-compliance means the product:

-is past its expiry date
-is a non-medical grade
-may not have a bilingual label

To import non-compliant masks, manufacturers and importers should

-complete the HC Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Notification form
-include “COVID – Notification” in the subject line of the email to help Health Canada fast-track requests
-email the completed form along with a copy of the product label to hc.mdel.questions.leim.sc@canada.ca

Fast-tracking approval of masks in Canada
Health Canada is fast-tracking the MDEL application process for companies that want to manufacture, import or distribute Class I masks. Our goal is to complete the process within 24 hours from the time we receive a completed application.Companies that need an MDEL application fast-tracked should:

-contact hc.mdel.application.leim.sc@canada.ca to obtain the MDEL Application Form (FRM-0292)

-complete the form
-indicate in the subject line of the email: URGENT COVID-19 MDEL application for “-name of company”
-email the completed MDEL application form to hc.mdel.application.leim.sc@canada.ca

What if I am not importing on behalf of the gov’t or health workers?

You may still import these articles even if the consumers will not be government or health affiliated, but duty and tax may apply.

How do I Customs clear the goods and take advantage of CN20-08?

If you do not already have an account with a customs broker, you may use the autoclear wizard on our home page. Your customs broker will apply the special authorization for duty relief if you are eligible.

 

Sources:

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/medical-devices/masks-respirators-covid19.html#a5

https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/cn-ad/cn20-08-eng.html

https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/n95-respirators-and-surgical-masks-face-masks

https://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2020/72623a-eng.php#

https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/dhp-mps/alt_formats/pdf/compli-conform/licences/directives/gui-0016-eng.pdf

https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/cn-ad/cn20-12-eng.html

https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/cn-ad/cn20-19-eng.html

The HS Classification of Drones

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Look up in the sky! its a … helicopter of an unladen weight not exceeding 998 kg


What is a classification?

HS classification is the process of determining a products place in the universal index of international trade. Proper classification is essential to compliance, but finding the true classification of a certain product can be challenging and sometimes  absurd.

Drones pose an interesting challenge for classification since their end use can vary significantly — most rulings to date have focused on their end use (as either surveying equipment or videography) leading to a variety of different headings and duty rates. The admissibility in Canada as Transport Canada has yet to regulate such products at time of import. Perhaps even more interesting from a Customs perspective, is how cargo drones will be regulated when it comes to cross-border traffic!?

 

 

 

Description HS Code Current Duty Rate PGA Requirements* Detail
Drone (UAV) 8802.11.00.14  0%  n/a  Drones for carrying cargo are classified as mini-helicopters. We would place other drones — including hobby and racing drones — under this heading as well.
Video Drone 8525.80.00.50  0%  n/a  Drones outfitted with video cameras — for which the principal purpose is taking video — will be classified as cameras.
Drone for Surveying 9006.30.90.00  5%  n/a  Some specialized drones, such as those for aerial surveying, have been classified by the CBSA as surveying cameras.
Drone Propellers and other parts 8803.10.00.00  0%  n/a  Parts for drones — excluding cameras — will be classified as parts of helicopters.

*Note that the PGA requirements can vary depending on the country of origin, end use and state (dried, chilled, fresh) of the items you are importing. For more information, please contact us.

**Classifications are provided by Border Bee Customs Brokers as a reference guide for importers and should not be relied upon solely for commercial classification.

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Ecommerce, Customs and You provides answers to your questions on importing goods, written by the Border Bee staff.

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