A guide for residents of Canada returning to Canada
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This publication provides an overview of the laws, restrictions, entitlements and obligations of Canadian residents returning from travel outside Canada. The information provided was accurate when it was published; however, legislative provisions and requirements can change at any time. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA ) makes every effort to provide timely updates to this publication and its Web site.
If you have information about suspicious cross-border activity, please call the CBSA Border Watch toll-free line at 1-888-502-9060 .
Serving residents of Canada
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) operates at some 1,200 service points across Canada and 39 locations abroad. It employs approximately 13,000 public servants who handle over 12 million commercial releases and more than 95 million travellers each year.
The CBSA's role is to manage the nation's border by administering and enforcing over 90 domestic laws that govern trade and travel, as well as international agreements and conventions.
The CBSA delivers innovative border management through a network of dedicated professionals who work strategically with domestic and international partners to ensure that Canada remains secure and responsive to new and emerging threats. The CBSA also intercepts, detains and removes those persons who pose a threat to Canada or who have been determined to be inadmissible.
Border services officers are at Canada's entry points to help you when you return to Canada. The CBSA is committed to providing efficient, courteous service. At designated bilingual offices, officers will provide service in the official language of your choice.
If you require more detailed information that is not provided in this publication, please call the Border Information Service (BIS ) at one of the telephone numbers listed in the section called "Additional information ."
Is this publication for you?
This publication will be helpful if:
- you are a Canadian resident intending to travel outside Canada; or
- you are returning home after travelling to a foreign country and you have been away for less than a year.
This publication provides detailed information that all residents of Canada should know before returning home.
For a printed summary of the content of I Declare. consult the publication titled Travelling Outside Canada available at any Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) office or call the Border Information Service (BIS) at one of the telephone numbers listed in the section called "Additional information ".
Before you leave
To facilitate your return to Canada, there are several things you can do before you leave.
Make sure you carry proper identification for yourself and any children travelling with you, regardless of their age, to assist in confirming your legal right or authorization to enter Canada upon your return. Proper identification includes a Canadian passport, a Canadian birth certificate, a citizenship card or a Certificate of Indian Status. If you are travelling alone with minor children or if you are not the legal guardian, you should carry proper documentation such as custody and legal separation documents and a letter of authorization to facilitate your entry back into Canada.
The Government of Canada recommends that Canadian citizens travel with a valid Canadian passport because it is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians for the purpose of international travel.
International transportation companies such as airlines may require travellers to present a passport and/or a Canadian Permanent Resident Card. Therefore, Canadian residents who present other documents may face delays or may not be allowed to board the plane or other conveyance.
When travelling with a group of vehicles, parents or legal guardians should arrive at the border in the same vehicle as their children to avoid any confusion.
Border services officers watch for missing children as part of the Our Missing Children program and may ask detailed questions about the children who are travelling with you.
For your health and safety
Some of the places you plan to visit or pass through may be plagued by cholera, yellow fever or malaria. Before you leave Canada, it is recommended that you contact a qualified health professional at a travel health clinic near you to find out what vaccinations and medications you might need. A list of travel clinics across Canada is available on the Public Health Agency of Canada's Web site at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca .
If you are suffering from a communicable disease upon your return to Canada, or if you have been in close contact with someone with a communicable disease, you are obligated to inform a border services officer or a quarantine officer, who can determine if you require further assessment. If you have been ill while travelling or become ill after your return to Canada, inform a Canadian doctor that you have been abroad, where you were and what, if any, treatment or medical care you have received (e.g. medications, blood transfusions, injections, dental care or surgery).
Protecting your valuables
Before travelling outside Canada with valuable items, you may wish to take advantage of a free identification service that is available at all CBSA offices. This service is available for items that have serial numbers or other unique markings. For items that do not have such markings, the CBSA can apply a sticker to them so that they can be identified for customs purposes as goods that are legally in Canada.
When you show your valuables to a border services officer and state that you acquired them in Canada or lawfully imported them, the officer will list your valuables and their serial numbers on a wallet-sized card called a Form BSF407, Identification of Articles for Temporary Exportation. If you are questioned about your goods when you return to Canada, show your card to the officer. This will help identify the valuables that were in your possession before leaving the country.
Because jewellery often has significant value and can be difficult to identify, border services officers cannot list it on a Form BSF407. It is recommended that you travel with as little jewellery as possible.
Taking the following steps before you leave Canada will make it easier for you to re-enter the country with jewellery:
- Obtain an appraisal report and a signed and dated photograph of each piece of jewellery from a recognized Canadian gemologist, jeweller or your insurance agent.
- Obtain written certification that the items or jewellery in the photographs are the ones described in the appraisal report.
- Take the jewellery appraisal reports, certification statements and photographs to a CBSA office to be validated.
- If the jewellery was purchased in Canada, retain the sales receipt.
- If you imported the goods previously, make sure you have a copy of your receipt.
- Carry the appraisal reports, the certifications and photographs when travelling outside Canada.
Modifying an item outside Canada
Under customs legislation, if you take any item outside Canada and change it in any way to enhance its condition or value, the CBSA does not consider it to be the same item when you bring it back into the country. You have to declare the full value of the new item.
Even if part of the ring originated in Canada, the CBSA is required to treat the ring like any other piece of jewellery you may have purchased while outside the country. This rule applies unless you have previous authorization from the CBSA to have those repairs or alterations made outside Canada.
Repairs or alterations to your vehicle/ vessel/aircraft
If you intend to have repairs or alterations made to your vehicle/vessel/aircraft outside Canada, check with the CBSA for information before you leave. Under customs legislation, the CBSA can no longer consider your vehicle, vessel or aircraft to be Canadian-made if you increase its value, improve its condition or have it modified outside Canada. As a result, you may have to pay duty and the goods and services tax (GST ) or harmonized sales tax (HST ) on the entire value of the vehicle/vessel/aircraft when you bring it back.
No duty will apply to the value of the repairs or alterations made to your vehicle/vessel/aircraft in the United States, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Israel or another Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement beneficiary when it is re-imported into Canada; however, the GST/HST will apply.
Emergency repairs can be made to your vehicle/vessel/aircraft while you are travelling outside the country to ensure your safe return to Canada. However, to be eligible for this special provision, be sure to declare the value of all repairs and replacement parts when you return to Canada with the vehicle.
Transport Canada also has requirements for vehicles that are extensively modified. For more information, contact Transport Canada's Registrar of Imported Vehicles at 1-888-848-8240 .
When you return to Canada, you may qualify for a personal exemption. This allows you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying regular duty and taxes, except for a minimum duty that may apply to some tobacco products.
The CBSA has agreements with some provinces and territories that allow the CBSA to collect provincial and territorial taxes, levies and fees on goods that have a value higher than your personal exemption.
If you reside in one of the provinces or territories that has an agreement with the CBSA and you return to Canada at a port of entry in your province or territory of residence, the goods that you import in excess of your personal exemption will be subject to a provincial/territorial assessment. If you bring in more than the allowance for alcohol, you will have to pay the provincial/territorial assessment in the province or territory where you enter Canada, even if it is not your province/territory of residence.
The Government of Canada has agreements with New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador to collect the HST. If you live in a participating province and the value of the non-commercial goods you import is more than your personal exemption, you have to pay the HST instead of the GST, regardless of where you enter Canada. Effective July 1, 2010, the CBSA will likewise collect the HST for Ontario and British Columbia.
Except for restricted items, you can bring back any amount of goods as long as you are willing to pay the duty and taxes, as well as any provincial/territorial assessments that apply. This rule applies even if you do not qualify for a personal exemption.
You must always report the amount you are claiming for your personal exemption in Canadian dollars. You must therefore convert foreign currency values and any foreign sales taxes you paid to Canadian dollars at the appropriate rate of exchange.
What are your personal exemptions?
You can claim up to CAN$200 worth of goods without paying any duties. This is your personal exemption. You must have the goods with you when you arrive in Canada and you cannot include tobacco products or alcoholic beverages in this exemption. If the goods you bring in are worth more than CAN$200 in total, you cannot claim this exemption. Instead, you have to pay full duties on all goods you bring in.
After each absence of 48 hours or more
You can claim up to CAN$800 worth of goods without paying any duties. You must have the goods with you when you arrive in Canada. Although you can include some tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, a partial exemption may apply to cigarettes, tobacco products and manufactured tobacco. See the sections called "Alcoholic beverages " and "Tobacco products " for more details.
You can claim up to CAN$800 worth of goods without paying any duties. Although you can include some tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, a partial exemption may apply to cigarettes, tobacco products and manufactured tobacco. See the sections called "Alcoholic beverages " and "Tobacco products " for more details. With the exception of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, you do not need to have the goods with you when you arrive.
To calculate the number of days you have been absent, do not include the date you left Canada but include the date you returned. Dates matter but not times. For example, we consider you to have been absent seven days if you left Friday the 7th and returned Friday the 14th.
Who is eligible for these exemptions?
You are eligible for a personal exemption if you are one of the following:
- a Canadian resident returning from a trip outside Canada;
- a former resident of Canada returning to live in this country; or
- a temporary resident of Canada returning from a trip outside Canada.
Do you spend part of the year outside Canada?
If you spend part of the year in another country for health reasons or pleasure, that country usually considers you to be a visitor. As such, the CBSA still considers you a resident of Canada. This means that you are entitled to the same exemptions as other Canadians. When you import foreign goods or vehicles for your personal use into Canada (even temporarily), you have to meet all import requirements and pay all applicable duty and taxes.
What conditions apply to your personal exemptions?
You cannot combine your personal exemptions with another person's or transfer them to someone else.
In addition, you cannot combine your 48-hour exemption (CAN$800) with your seven-day exemption (CAN$800) for a total exemption of CAN$1,600.
In general, the goods you include in your personal exemption must be for your personal or household use. Such goods include souvenirs that you purchased, gifts that you received from friends or relatives living outside Canada or prizes that you won.
Goods you bring in for commercial use or for another person do not qualify for the exemption and are subject to applicable duty and taxes. In all cases, goods you include in your 24-hour exemption (CAN$200) or 48-hour exemption (CAN$800) have to be with you upon your arrival in Canada.
Except for tobacco and alcohol, goods you claim in your seven-day exemption (CAN$800) may be shipped to your home by mail, courier or other means of transportation.
You are allowed to import only one of the following amounts of alcohol free of duty and taxes:
- 1.5 litres (53 imperial ounces) of wine;
- a total of 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of alcoholic beverages; or
- up to a maximum of 8.5 litres of beer or ale.
The quantities of alcohol you can bring in must be within the limit set by the province or territory where you will enter Canada. If the value of the goods is more than your personal exemption, you will have to pay both duty and taxes, as well as provincial/territorial assessments. In Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, you cannot bring in more than the quantities of alcohol allowed. For more information, contact the appropriate provincial or territorial liquor control authority before you arrive back in Canada.
If you are 18 years of age or over, you are allowed to bring in all of the following amounts of tobacco into Canada free of duty and taxes within your personal exemption:
- 200 cigarettes;
- 50 cigars;
- 200 grams (7 ounces) of manufactured tobacco; and
- 200 tobacco sticks.
If you include cigarettes, tobacco sticks or manufactured tobacco in your personal exemption, a partial exemption may only apply. You will have to pay a special duty on these products unless they are marked "CANADA DUTY PAID • DROIT ACQUITTÉ ." You will find Canadian-made products sold at duty-free shops marked this way. You can speed up your clearance by having your tobacco products available for inspection when you arrive.
If you bring in more than your personal exemption, you will have to pay regular assessments on the excess amount. These regular assessments can include duty and taxes, as well as provincial or territorial fees. Border services officers will give an allowance for products that are marked "CANADA DUTY PAID • DROIT ACQUITTÉ " when they calculate the amounts owing.
In addition, Excise Act, 2001 limits the amount of tobacco products that may be imported (or possessed) by an individual for personal use if the tobacco product is not packaged and stamped "CANADA DUTY PAID • DROIT ACQUITTÉ ." The limit is currently five units of tobacco products. One unit of tobacco products consists of one of the following:
- 200 cigarettes;
- 50 cigars;
- 200 grams (7 ounces) of manufactured tobacco; or
- 200 tobacco sticks.
While you are outside Canada, you can send gifts free of duty and taxes to friends in Canada under certain conditions. To qualify, each gift must not be worth more than CAN$60 and cannot be a tobacco product, an alcoholic beverage or advertising matter. If the gift is worth more than CAN$60, the recipient will have to pay regular duty and taxes on the excess amount. It is always a good idea to include a gift card to avoid any misunderstanding.
While gifts you send from outside Canada do not count as part of your personal exemption, gifts you bring back in your personal baggage do.
Prizes and awards
In most cases, you have to pay regular duty and taxes on prizes and awards you receive outside Canada. Prizes can be declared as part of your personal exemption and duty must be paid on any excess amount. For more information, call the BIS at one of the telephone numbers listed in the section called "Additional information ."
Regular duty rate
If you do not qualify for a personal exemption, or if you exceed your exemption limit, you will have to pay the GST/HST, as well as any duty or other tax or assessment that applies on the excess amount. Duty rates vary according to the goods you are importing, the country where the goods were made and the country from which you are importing them. You may also have to pay the PST if you live in a province where the CBSA has an agreement to collect the tax and you return to Canada through that province.
Importing a marine pleasure craft
Marine pleasure crafts include any kind of vessels such as boats, fishing boats, yachts, dinghies, tenders, motorboats, sailboats and personal watercraft, as long as they are used for non commercial purposes.
All vessels imported by residents of Canada, regardless of where the vessels are licensed or registered, are subject to all applicable duty and taxes when they are first imported into Canada. If a vessel is imported through a land border crossing, it must be declared to the border services officer and the importation process will take place at that location. In the event that the vessel is imported into Canada by water, the owner must go to a designated marina and contact the telephone reporting centre at 1-888-226-7277 immediately upon arrival in Canada and follow the instructions provided by the officer. If processing cannot take place at the marina, the owner must go to the nearest CBSA office. Please ensure to have the bill of sale and proof of ownership ready to present to the officer upon request. It is recommended that the proof of the CBSA declaration or payment of duty and taxes be kept on board the vessel for future reference.
For information on the licensing and registration of vessels, please visit Service Canada's Web site at www.servicecanada.gc.ca or Transport Canada's Web site at www.tc.gc.ca .
How goods qualify under NAFTA
Your goods qualify for the U.S. duty-free rate under NAFTA if the following applies:
- the goods are for your personal use; and
- the goods are marked as made in the United States, Canada or Mexico, or
- the goods are not marked or labelled to indicate that they were made anywhere other than in the United States, Canada or Mexico.
If you would like more information on goods eligible under NAFTA, refer to Memorandum D11-4-13. Rules of Origin for Casual Goods Regulations. which is available on the CBSA's Web site at www.cbsa.gc.ca under "Publications and forms," or you can call BIS at one of the telephone numbers listed in the section called "Additional information ."
World Trade Organization (WTO ) agreement
The duty on a wide range of products originating in non-NAFTA countries has been cut or will be reduced to zero over the next few years. NAFTA goods also qualify for the WTO agreement rate. If the duty rate payable on the goods you are importing is lower under the WTO agreement than under NAFTA, border services officers automatically assess your goods using the lower rate.
Value for duty and foreign sales tax
Value for duty is sometimes called customs value. It is the amount the CBSA uses to calculate duty on your goods, and it is generally based on the price you paid for the goods.
In most cases, the CBSA considers any foreign sales tax added to or included in the price to be part of the value. However, some foreign governments will refund sales tax to you if you export the items you bought. In such cases, you do not have to include the amount of the foreign sales tax that was or will be refunded to you.
When you return to Canada
When you return to Canada, you have to declare all of the goods you acquired while outside Canada, such as purchases, gifts, prizes or awards that you are bringing with you or are having shipped to you. Include goods that are still in your possession that you bought at a Canadian or foreign duty-free shop. As well, make sure you declare any repairs or alterations you made to your vehicle, vessel or aircraft while you were out of the country.
If you aren't sure if an article is admissible or should be declared, always declare it first and then ask the border services officer. Remember that officers are there to help you and will work out your personal exemption and any duty and taxes you owe in the way that benefits you most.
Making your declaration
If you are returning to Canada by commercial aircraft, you will receive a Form E311. CBSA Declaration Card. to complete before you land. These cards are also used at some locations for travellers arriving by train, boat or bus.
If you have any questions about the card or Canadian regulations, please ask the border services officer when you arrive.
If you arrive in Canada in a private vehicle, such as an automobile, an aircraft, a boat or a bus, you can usually make an oral declaration.
If you are declaring goods claimed as part of your CAN$800 (7 day) exemption that preceded or will follow your arrival in Canada, ask the border services officer for a Form E24, Personal Exemption CBSA Declaration . You will need your copy of this form to claim these goods; otherwise, you may have to pay the regular duty and taxes on them.
The CBSA has areas at most major airports where you can pay any duty or taxes you owe while waiting for your baggage to arrive.
The CBSA offers programs that streamline border clearances for pre-approved. low-risk Canadian and U.S. citizens and permanent residents travelling to Canada at major airports, highways and waterways. Refer to the section "CBSA programs for registered trusted travellers " for more detailed information.
CBSA programs for registered trusted travellers
The CANPASS and NEXUS programs streamline the border clearance process for pre-approved. low-risk travellers into Canada and the United States. These programs include:
- CANPASS Air
- CANPASS Corporate Aircraft
- CANPASS Private Aircraft
- CANPASS Private Boats
- CANPASS Remote Area Border Crossing
If you wish to participate in either of these programs, you must fill out an application form, undergo a security check and meet certain admissibility criteria. For information and application forms, visit www.cbsa.gc.ca/canpass or www.nexus.gc.ca or call BIS at one of the telephone numbers listed in the section called "Additional information ."
You and the border services officer
You may occasionally find yourself going through a more detailed inspection. In some cases, this simply means that you may have to complete a form. In other cases, the border services officer will need to identify the goods you are bringing into the country or examine your luggage.
Border services officers are legally entitled to examine your luggage as part of their responsibility to protect Canada's safety, economy and environment. You are responsible for opening, unpacking and repacking your luggage. The CBSA appreciates your cooperation.
By making your goods easily accessible for inspection, and having your receipts handy, you will be helping the CBSA to help you. It is a good idea to keep all your receipts for accommodations and purchases, and for any repairs done to, or parts bought for, your vehicle. The border services officer may ask to see them as evidence of the length of your stay and of the value of the goods or repairs.
If you disagree with the amount of duty and taxes that you have to pay, please ask to speak with the superintendent on duty. A consultation can often resolve the issue quickly and without cost. If you are still not satisfied, our officers can tell you how to make a formal appeal.
In addition, border services officers may arrest an individual for an offence under the Criminal Code (e.g. impaired driving, outstanding arrest warrants, stolen property, abductions/kidnappings) and for infractions under other acts of Parliament (e.g. the Customs Act . the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act ). If you are arrested, you may be compelled to attend court in Canada. You should note that anyone arrested in Canada is protected by, and will be treated in accordance with, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms .
False declarations and the seizure of goods
If you do not declare goods, or if you falsely declare them, the CBSA can seize the goods. This means that you may lose the goods permanently or that you may have to pay a penalty to get them back. Depending on the type of goods and the circumstances involved, the CBSA may impose a penalty that ranges from 25% to 80% of the value of the seized goods.
In addition, the Customs Act provides border services officers with the authority to seize all vehicles that were used to import goods unlawfully. When this happens, the CBSA imposes a penalty that you must pay before the vehicle is returned to you.
If you do not declare tobacco products and alcoholic beverages at the time of importation, the CBSA will seize them permanently.
A record of infractions is kept in the CBSA computer system. If you have an infraction record, you may have to undergo a more detailed examination on future trips. You may also become ineligible for the NEXUS and CANPASS programs.
If your goods were seized and you disagree with the action taken, you can appeal by writing a letter to the CBSA within 90 days of the date of the seizure. You can find more information about the appeal process on your seizure receipt form.
Claiming unaccompanied goods
When goods arrive before or after your arrival in Canada, you have 40 days to claim them by producing your copy of Form E24, Personal Exemption CBSA Declaration. You are required to request this form when you return to Canada (see the section called "Making your declaration " for more information). It is recommended that you retain your copy of Form E24 until you have received and accounted for all your goods.
The carrier who delivers the goods will ask you to pay the duty and taxes that apply, along with a processing fee. You then have two options:
- you can accept delivery by paying the amount owing and then file a claim with the CBSA for a refund; or
- you can refuse to accept delivery.
If delivery is refused, the shipment is returned to the sender. The importer must advise Canada Post that a reclassification of the shipment is requested. The CBSA will contact the importer who will have to provide an explanation for the reclassification.
The importation of certain goods is restricted in Canada. The following are some examples of these goods. Make sure you have the information you require before attempting to import these items into Canada.
Firearms and weapons
You must declare all weapons and firearms at the CBSA port of entry when you enter Canada. If not, you could face prosecution and the goods may be seized.
For more detailed information on importing a firearm into Canada, see the publication called Importing a Firearm or Weapon Into Canada or call the BIS at one of the telephone numbers listed in the section called "Additional information ". For information about applying for a Canadian firearms licence or a firearms registration certificate, or to obtain an Application for an Authorization to Transport Restricted Firearms and Prohibited Firearms (Form CAFC 679) in advance. please contact: