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Advice for Visitors to Canada

Order at the Border: Canada Customs and Duties Guidelines

Temporary visitors to Canada, who arrive well-informed and well-prepared, are less likely to be held up at the border, thus avoiding the typical pangs of anxiety and intimidation caused by scrutinizing customs officials. By complying with Canada customs and duties regulations, the transition from one country to another can be made smoothly, without complication. The following information and guidelines aim to facilitate travelers’ entry into Canada upon their arrival at the border.

Show some I.D.
Canada Customs and Duties: PassportA Canada Customs and Duties official will ask visitors to Canada to present a valid passport; however; some will also have to show a visa card (applies to residents from specific countries). American citizens do not need a passport to enter Canada, but should have a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship handy plus photo identification. Foreigners who have acquired permanent U.S. residential status are obliged to carry their “PR” card with them when crossing the border.

Toting Children Along
Persons coming into Canada below 18 years of age are considered minors and are bound by the entry specifications outlined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Adults going across the border with minors in tow must present an acceptable form of ID for each youngster e.g. birth certificate, passport or residential status card.

Personal Baggage Allowances
Visitors to Canada are entitled to transport certain items into the country, goods that fall under the category of “personal baggage”. Such goods can include articles of clothing, sport and camping gear, cameras and various forms of electronic gadgetry. However, all imported items require declaration at a designated port of entry before access into the country can be granted. The laws governing Canada customs and duties allow for goods declared upon entering Canada to be free of tariff (duty) and taxes; they cannot be left behind when visitors leave the country.

Routine Inspections
Border officials will frequently perform inspections of goods being imported into Canada in order to confirm declarations. At times, travelers are summoned to the customs office to simply complete a standard form; at other times, the goods being brought across the border may need in-depth identification by customs officers. By law, border officials have the right to examine suitcases, trunks, boxes, and all personal baggage and belongings as a safety precaution. They are also in a position to detain offenders heading for Canada, under the Criminal Code, for infractions such as driving while intoxicated, possessing stolen goods, kidnapping or abducting, and for any outstanding warrants.

Importing Gifts, Alcohol and Tobacco Products
Under the Canada customs and duties regulations, a specific dollar amount or quantity of certain goods can be brought into the country, duty and tax-free:

  • Gifts purchased for family and friends may be imported, provided each offering has a value of no more than $60 Canadian. Items exceeding $60 in value are subject to duty and tax charges on the overage amount.
  • Alcohol products cannot be claimed as gifts at the border. A traveler is allowed one of the following amounts of alcohol: 1.5 litres of wine, a combined sum of 1.14 litres of mixed alcoholic beverages, or a maximum of 8.5 litres of beer.
  • Travelers are permitted the following quantities of tobacco products: 200 cigarettes, 200 grams of factory-made tobacco, or 200 sticks of tobacco.

Restricted Goods
Certain goods imported into Canada may be subject to scrutiny and possible refusal. These items include guns and other related weaponry, fireworks, explosives, equipment used for radio transmission, food provisions, animals and flora. Also, anyone carrying $10,000 or more, in Canadian currency (or a foreign equivalent), must report the sum of money at a border services office upon arrival and prior to leaving Canada.