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Info for Returning Former Residents of Canada

Are you a returning former resident of Canada? If so, this post is to help with the customs process in bringing your stuff back to Canada.

Tariff 9804 provides an exemption for returning former residents of Canada to import goods duty and tax free up to a value of $10,000 CAD per item so long as they fall under certain criteria:

1. They are former residents that were absent at least 1 year or were resident of another country for at least 1 year.
2. They have owned, possessed and used the goods for at least 6 months. (the only exception for this rule is for former residents who have been away at least 5 years, goods should still be used though)

For any new goods your are entitled to the same exemptions as if you had been out of Canada for at least 7 days. $750 CAD worth of goods duty and tax free, with limitations on Alcohol and tobacco that I wont repeat as many people cover this topic…but for those of you that don’t know here is a link to CBSA’s website post on the subject.

*Please note to qualify for this exemption you do have to prove your former resident status in Canada with Canadian Passport or Permanent Resident Card or landing papers and you have to prove that you were out of the Country for over a year or were a resident of another country.

Some examples of acceptable proof is for residency abroad are a letter from your employer, employment contract, utility bills showing dates, lease/rental agreement, bank statements for the period etc.

Your passport or residence visa or driving licence in another country is not prima facia evidence of residency abroad as passports are not always stamped and some people have more than one,  and visas and driver’s licences can be issued and the person leave that country.

High value goods – Goods over $10,000 CAD will be charged duties applicable and taxes over the $10,000 threshold. I.e. if you bring back a $15,000 CAD vehicle from the US, you will have to pay on $5000 CAD. Jewellery and other high value items should be carefully documented with details, accompanying invoices/receipts if available, gemologist appraisal/certification, serial numbers and photos if possible. Declaring “1 gold watch” is not acceptable, rather 1 rolex submariner watch, 14k gold, serial #6875213, mens value $15000 CAD” is fine.

The first step a returning resident should complete Form B4 linked here in pdf format, if you run out of lines listing your goods you can continue on Form B4a linked here. If not completed in advance, this should then be completed at the time of declaration or arrival back in Canada. The important thing is that a list of goods returning be submitted to customs upon return to be validated (stamped). This indicates that you have delcared these goods. Once you have these lists stamped you can make the actual declaration later on if you wish when the goods actually arrive. Once your declaration has been fully processed, Customs will document this on Form B15 and give you a copy.
Very Important! Do not lose any documents or copies of paperwork Customs gives you! This is your proof that you declared and are entitled to the exemption. People that are not prepared to make this declaration upon arrival back in Canada should report to the nearest Customs office inland that offers commercial services to make their declaration.

Once your goods arrive, by air cargo, courier, sea container, the shipper/warehouse or courier will notify you that your goods have arrived and that you need to clear customs and send you all the documents. The documents need to include 2 copies of the Cargo Control Document. This is the document that Customs stamps to release your goods. Bring these with your B4 and B4a and B15 (if you have one already) and ID and your proof of being away for at least 1 year to the customs office. If all is well your papers will be stamped and you are free to pick up your stuff. Please note that your shipment can be selected for an examination at anytime and there is no time limit as to how long it can take. I would advise that your declaration be truthful and accurate at all times to avoid penalties both civil or criminal.

Customs Brokers cannot do this for you as they are not allowed to clear personal effects. Some freight forwarding services will help you through the process and even accompany you to the Customs office – this service is usually included with the more reputable companies.

If you’re bringing back any animals, plants or food items there may be additional requirements and you will need to check with CFIA Canadian Food Inspection Agency. i.e some dairy products are not admissible. Here is a link to CFIA’s import polices and here is one for food.

Pet dogs and Cats other than the US will have to be inspected by a CFIA vet to certify health and there is a service charge associated. Make sure you have a record of your pets vaccinations. Here is a link to CFIA’s website for importing pets.

FYI. There are other items that are inadmissble such at used mattresses due to health concerns.

If you have any further questions please feel free to post.

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A Basic Guide to Customs Brokerage Fees Charged by Couriers

I was given an idea to write a post about different shipping methods to Canada by dansmoncorps on Twitter. she has her own blog here with some nice photography. Anyway thanks for the idea.
I must confess that this is not my area of expertise but I thought it was definitely information that people out there want to know and is somewhat related to the Customs Process.

So here is how I see it.

Canada Post – by far the cheapest, with a $5 service charge for regular mail and $8 service charge for EMS. i.e. you order something off ebay and its sent by US postal service then it goes to one of the 3 international mail facilities where Customs will process your mail and if you owe duties and/or tax then you will receive notification from the post office to go collect your parcel. Contrary to what some may think this service charge does not go to Customs or the Government of Canada but to Canada Post. PST, GST, HST and Duty however is collected by Canada Post on behalf of the Federal and Provincial Governments.

Mail under $20 is released duty and tax free under a Postal Importations Remission Order. Over $20 you can be subject to duty and tax.

Over $1600 your mail can be deemed commercial and you may receive a letter in the mail directing you to clear your shipment at a prescribed Customs office offering commercial services. You will have to bring your receipts or invoices and 2 copies of the letter and 2 completed Form B3 to declare your goods commercially. After you present your paperwork to Customs and pay any duties and tax owing you can then fax a release stamped copy of the letter back to Customs at the mail centre and they will allow Canada Post to deliver your package.

The only negative I really see is the length of time it can take to send or recieve your shipment.

For Customs requirements on using Canada Post to send or receive goods in greater detail click here.

Canada Post also has the “Border Free” program that offers “hassle free online cross border shopping”. This actually seems to work quite well from what I have seen. The basic jist of it is that if you shop using participating online retailers like abercombie you get a price that includes all the different costs associated with no suprises and your package delivered to your door. For more info see here

UPS – UPS standard service is definitely faster than regular mail, but be prepared to pay brokerage fees for UPS performing the customs clearance which varies based on the value for duty. If you get UPS Worldwide Express, Saver or Expedited Services the brokering is included for the first 5 line of classification. Basically this mean that you can have to 5 different types of goods in the same shipment cleared free of any brokerage fee.

You can download the UPS Customs Rate guide here. Its actually quite informative and breaks down the charges.
Some have complained about feeling blindsided by UPS standard’s fees for clearing Customs. As many retailers in the US will use their services it is best to be aware of the charges. As I mentioned in a previous post, you always have the option to self clear! Check out my previous post on how to do this.

DHL – Is a another air courier option. If you have not paid Customs fees in advance, DHL charges %2.5 of the value with a starting minimum of $7. Go here to see more details.

Fedex – Now if you’re shipping from the US there is also Fedex Ground which is cheaper but of course takes longer. Fedex Ground will often deliver your package and send you a bill later for brokerage fees. Again if you have not designated them as your broker you have the option to self clear and they have to reverse the charges once you show proof that you have accounted for the goods with Customs.

With regular Federal Express just like UPS the first 5 different commodities are brokered free of charge. After that ancilliary charges apply. Here is the link for more detail on the anciliary fees. Fedex also has a nice page detailing different customs froms you may need. here. Very useful!

Purolator – Their fees for brokering are also invoiced after the fact by Purolator Trade Solutions for a minimum of $5 or %3 of the value for duty whether you owe duties and taxes or not.

Things to be aware of – The $60 gift exemption applies only to gifts being sent by Non-residents to residents and must clearly appear to be a gift. If the package is inspected by Customs and not determined to be in fact a gift (no indication other than the declaration) full duties and taxes will apply. If there is no indication of value, no invoice, or receipt, or bill, then the value may be assessed by the officer. Of course you can always dispute the charges afterwards.

Companies or vendors that regularly import to Canada do not usually declare falsely as this leads to longer delays in the customs process leading to disruntled customers…so don’t ask them to declare it as a Gift.
Undervaluing goods is another pitfall for rookie importers and just as risky as you take the chance of having your shipment seized by customs and retaing a record for the infraction.
I’m sure I’ve missed stuff, but I will keep adding to this post as things come to me…so check back for more info.
Any questions? you can post here or tweet it @customsinfo


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