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returning residents

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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