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Customs basics: documentation and declaration

Although documentation and declaration are fundamentals for importers, the requirements are anything but simple.

The short answer is that it depends on what you’re importing. The long answer is, well, really long. 

In this post, we try to simplify it as much as we can, while flagging the points in the process where it will get more complicated and require further specificity.

Courier Low-Value Shipment (CLVS)filing_18072299_s

In Canada, there are two streams for releasing commercial goods.

The first stream, the Courier Low-Value Shipment (CLVS) system is for shipments that are valued at less than $3300CAD. Commercial goods can clear through this system provided they are transported to Canada with a participating carrier and are not regulated by any Participating Government Agency (PGA).

Under this stream, typically all that is needed is a commercial or Customs invoice with the information as noted below.

Formal Customs entries

Shipments that are:

  • valued at greater than $3300.00 CAD, 
  • regulated by a PGA, 
  • or carried by a carrier not on the CLVS program, must have a formal customs entry. 

These shipments must be presented to CBSA at the first point of arrival into Canada. The required information (listed below) can be presented to CBSA electronically or, as an exception, in paper format. 

Required documentation

To put it very simply, the following would be required if a paper entry were to be submitted:

  •     Cargo Control Document (providing cargo and conveyance information)
  •     Commercial or Customs invoice(s) detailing the following:
    •     Vendor Name & address
    •     Consignee name & address
    •     Purchaser name & address
    •     Quantity, unit of measure, value and detailed description of goods
    •     10-digit HS classification number of goods
    •      Country of origin of goods
    •     Importer name, business number & address
    •     Number of packages and weight of shipment
    •     Transaction number in bar-coded format
    •      Permits, licenses, certificates and authorizations by participating government agencies (PGAs)* 

* This is where it gets complicated. Imported goods can be regulated by 9 PGAs that are broken down into 28 sub-PGAs and counting.

We have been steadily adding to our “Survival Guide” series of blog posts outlining each PGA/sub-PGA’s requirements in detail. Find the Survival Guides here.

Again, the information should be transmitted electronically as that is now the standard. Paper entries are the exception to the rule. Some documents must still be provided to CBSA or a PGA as a materialized imaged document even if transmitted electronically.

Need more help?

D-Memorandum D17-1-4 provides further insight into documentation requirements.

If your product is regulated by one of the PGAs, you will need to dig deeper into the detailed requirements for your specific product, or reach out to a Customs broker for support.

Ready for skilled and experienced Customs support? We’ve been in the Customs brokerage business for more than half a century. We’re ready to help. Learn more about getting your documentation right the first time. Download our FREE eBook

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Information provided by Customs Brokerage Department. 
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