Table of contents
Bringing goods into Canada from another country is a regulated activity. If you are thinking about importing or are currently importing, this guide will give you information on the requirements that apply to businesses in Ontario.
Most of the steps involved in this guide should be completed after your business is set-up and you know what products you will be importing.
If you need information on starting a business, please refer to our start-up guide.
Business start-up guide
You can also learn more about importing from the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA). Visit their website to access more resources and read their importing guide.
Overview of importing
You should know the following basic requirements before you bring products into Canada.
To import products into Canada, you need a business number from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). You need to register for this number with the CRA before you bring products into the country.
If you already have a business number, contact the CRA to make sure that it is set up for importing.
Harmonized Description and Coding System (HS)
You will need an HS number to identify your products. The number is based on an international six-digit 'root' with additional digits for different types of export reporting. The HS number allows officials around the world to apply the correct amount of duties, taxes and regulations to the products entering their country.
Searching Statistics Canada's Canadian Export Classification database can help you identify the HS code for your goods. You will need to know your HS code before you can complete many of the other requirements to import.
Canadian Export Classification
Depending on the type of products that you want to import and where you import from, you may need a permit to bring the goods into Canada. For example, textiles, food and steel generally require a permit to import. You can find a complete list of controlled goods and the application for import permits on the Global Affairs Canada website.
Import controls and import permits
Your business may need licences and permits from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.
In addition to the information you will find in this guide, you can use the Canada Business Permits and Licences Search, powered by BizPaL, to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact us to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and licences search
Advance commercial information (ACI)
You may need to submit information about the shipment or cargo that you are bringing in to Canada before it arrives at the border. Visit the Canada Border Services Agency website to find out what you will be required to provide.
Imported foods have specific labelling and ingredient requirements. Check with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to find out how the labelling rules will affect your imports.
CFIA - Guide to Importing Food Products Commercially
If you import tobacco products in bulk into Canada, you are required to register with the Client Services Branch, get a certificate to import and obtain a Wholesaler’s Permit. You will also be required to provide and maintain security in the form of a surety bond or letter of credit.
Tobacco Tax FAQ
Products that you sell to customers in Canada need specific labelling. Your labels usually need to be written in English and French and include the following information:
- Product identity
- Product net quantity
- Dealer's name and principal place of business
The Competition Bureau regulates the labelling of most non-food products. To learn more about the rules for packaging, labelling and advertising these products, contact the Competition Bureau directly or visit their website.
Contact the Competition Bureau:
Duties and tariffs
You may need to pay duty on the goods you bring into Canada. The amount of duty is based on the tariff classification and the value of your products. Make sure that you have the HS code for your products so that you can get the right tariff information. If you are importing under NAFTA, you will need specific documents to get the proper duty rates.
Duty deferral programs
There are custom programs that allow you to defer payments on goods you have imported and will be exporting, under specific circumstances.
Contact Canada Border Services Agency:
Duty deferral program
Some of the included programs are:
- Drawback program
You can get a refund for the duties you pay on imported goods that are eventually exported.
- Duties relief program
You can apply to become a qualified company who imports goods without paying duties if the goods are later exported. Before the goods are exported, you can further manufacture or use them in a limited matter.
- Customs bonded warehouse program
You can store goods duty and tax free in a licensed and regulated facility operated by the private sector. The goods can be stored for a limited time until they are exported or are consumed domestically.
Your goods need to clear customs in order to be sold in Canada. You may want to hire a licensed customs broker to help you handle your imports. Make sure that the broker you choose is licensed by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Customs programs that may apply to your business include:
Customs self-assessment program (CSA)
Once you have been actively importing low-risk products for at least 90 days, you may qualify for the CSA program and become a pre-approved importer. As a CSA-approved company, many of your import border requirements are simplified, which can save you time and money when moving your goods into the country. Contact the CBSA Border Information Services for more information.
Contact the Border Information Service:
The CSA program
The Free and Secure Trade Program (FAST)
If you’re importing low-risk products from the United States, you may qualify for the Free and Secure Trade Program (FAST). Under FAST, eligible goods arriving for approved companies and transported by approved carriers using registered drivers are cleared into Canada or the United States with greater speed and certainty.
Contact the Border Information Service:
Free and secure trade program
If you are interested in finding an association, use our secondary market research service request and have us search for one based on your needs.
Export specific links
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Canada Business Ontario (CBO) community partner, contact us at 1-888-576-4444.