Exporting to an international market can be an exciting way to expand your business. The United States (U.S.) is one of the first places that many exporters choose because of how close and similar it is to Canada. This guide will give you an overview of the most common regulations and requirements for exporting to the U.S.
When you are preparing to export there are several points to consider.
Do you have:
Do you know:
Before you start exporting, read the following guides and tools to learn the basics.
Both the Trade Commissioner’s Service and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have guides to help you understand the general exporting process. You can get information on:
Read about the fundamentals of exporting and how to develop your market. Some of the topics included in the guide include:
Getting Ready To Export Guide
Market research is an essential part of export business planning. It is important to obtain information about potential export markets and develop an export marketing plan.
You can start by researching:
When you have done the research on these and other issues that may have an impact on your product or service, you can make an informed decision about exporting.
The following resources can help you research and identify export markets:
Your gateway to a world of export information online. You can find current market reports, sector-specific news and trade events, and access to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service right at your fingertips.
Virtual Trade Commissioner (VTC)
You can get customized consulting solutions for the complex challenges you face everyday as a Canadian entrepreneur, including assistance with market research, export planning and globalization.
Contact the BDC:
Access Canada's official source of news and advice on trade, export and investment opportunities around the world. Entrepreneurs who want to learn about competing, partnering and prospering in the global marketplace can subscribe to this e-magazine.
Businesses that have identified a specific product or service to export and targeted a particular geographic market should ensure that they have a well developed export business plan.
Writing an Export Plan
You can learn the basics of exporting to the U.S. by taking part in a 2-day program offered by the Government of Ontario. The New Exporters to Border States Program (NEBS) take place four times a year, and includes a site visit to one of the border crossing points.
New Exporters to Border States Program (NEBS)
There are different ways to sell your products or services to the U.S. Each method of selling has its own costs and advantages. Choose the method that best suits your business, and consider how you will receive payment, handle returns, provide service and repair, ship products and manage competition.
Some methods of selling to the U.S. include:
You can not sell directly to customers while you are in the U.S. unless you have a work permit, are a dual citizen or hire a U.S. citizen to do the selling. However, Canadians can travel to the U.S. to attend trade shows, business meetings, perform market research, and negotiate contracts without a work visa.
For information on the regulation for selling products within the U.S., contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
It is your responsibility to meet the regulations and documentation requirements for any goods you export to the U.S. Depending on the type of product you export, there may be specific testing, permit or labelling requirements. Make sure you know what documentation and regulations will apply to your products before you export.
If you have legal questions, contact a lawyer who deals with business regulations. The Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Referral Service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer, based on your needs.
Contact the Law Society of Upper Canada:
Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Referral Service
All Canadian businesses and individuals who are exporting on a commercial basis must obtain a Business Number from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
CBSA is the main federal agency responsible for border enforcement and customs services. It regulates the flow of persons and goods across the Canadian border and collects all applicable duties, tariffs and taxes. Through its Border Information Service, a computerized, 24-hour telephone service you can access information on various customs topics free of charge from anywhere in Canada. Press "0" during regular business hours to speak with an agent.
CBSA has shared responsibility for:
Find out if the product you are exporting is prohibited or controlled. Certain goods are prohibited from entering or leaving Canada or require permits, certificates, labelling or authorization from a federal department are needed before Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will release the goods.
If you plan on exporting objects of historical, scientific and cultural significance you may require an export permit. The Canadian Cultural Property Export Control List identifies the categories of cultural property that require a permit before the object can be exported.
If you are crossing the Canadian border with $10,000 or more in Canadian funds or its equivalent in any form you have to report this to Canada Border Services Agency. The same applies if you are sending this amount by courier or by mail into or out of Canada, on your own behalf or the behalf of someone else.
Cross Border Currency Reporting
Goods enter the United States in one of two ways: Informal Entry or Formal Entry. The following are guidelines to help you determine which entry you should use:
Your shipment enters by Informal Entry when it:
You do not need a U.S. Customs Broker for informal entry.
Filing an Informal Entry
Your shipment enters by Formal Entry when it:
The process for formal entry is complex. You should consider hiring a U.S. Customs Broker to help you.
Filing a Formal Entry
You will need an Export Permit if you are selling goods that are on the Export Control List. The Trade Controls & Technical Barriers Bureau (TCTBB) of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) can help you determine if export permits are required and publishes brochures and Notices to Exporters that are available free on request.
Contact the Export and Import Controls Bureau:
TCTBB - Exporting
You may also need U.S. licences or permits for specific products including:
For more information, visit the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website.
You must follow U.S. labelling guidelines for products that are being shipped to and sold in the U.S. Items must be marked with the country of origin, and some may require product testing. Check with the appropriate U.S. government agency to get the guidelines for your products, and consider hiring an American export broker to help you export.
Examples of products with specific U.S. labelling requirements include:
There are quotas and labelling regulations for exporting clothing and textiles to the U.S. Visit the Federal Trade Commission for more information on the requirements for textiles.
U.S. Federal Trade Commission - Textiles
Before you export food products, submit your food or beverage product label to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make sure it meets their labelling standards.
FDA - Food Labelling Guide
EXCOL is a user friendly web-based application where exporters can submit applications for export permits and certificates, as well as request amendments and to print selected permits in your office.
Export Controls Online (EXCOL)
The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) offers businesses a number of specialized standards and standards-related information products online such as:
Contact the Standards Council of Canada:
A large part of the exporting process involves getting your goods to their destination. This means not only arranging for the physical transport of your goods- by ship or land or air - but also completing paperwork and complying with laws and regulations set out by authorities in the target country. For example, you will generally need to label shipments with the following information:
A freight forwarder or customs broker can help you make shipping decisions based on your needs and advise you on packing guidelines for the U.S.
Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers
Your product has six-digit number that identifies it. The number is used by customs officials around the world to determine the duties, taxes and regulations that apply to products entering their country.
Searching Statistics Canada's Canadian Export Classification database can help you identify the HS code for your goods.
You can use a set of codes called Incoterms to help you and your buyer clarify the costs, risks and responsibilities for shipping goods. These codes are recognized internationally and can help you avoid misunderstandings when you export. Visit the International Chamber of Commerce website for more information.
Incoterms 2010 Rules
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 programs that are part of the Duty Deferral Program include:
If you have a Canadian patent, trade-mark or copyright, it is usually protected when you export to the U.S. However, you may want to make sure that you are not infringing on another company’s intellectual property rights in the U.S. Intellectual property is protected through patents, trademarks, and copyright.
For information on patents and trademarks, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. For information on copyrights, visit the U.S. Copyright Office website.
Having the right training and skills is necessary for you or your employees when dealing with the complex and evolving field of export.
Here are some resources that can help you:
Take advantage of regional events that feature a half day program of workshops, roundtable discussions and networking sessions focused on export topics of interest to local small and medium-sized companies. The Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI) offers general export information on: Export Financing, E-Commerce, E-Business, Internet Exposure Benefits, and Managing Export Growth.
FITT provides interested exporters with the training and skills necessary to compete in international markets through their FITTskills Courses:
Get help understanding topics such as the import tariff classification system, NAFTA, export documentation and regulations, through online training modules offered by the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers (CSCB). You can register even if you are not a member.
Contact the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers:
Professional Development Modules
Finding and exporting to new markets can require good financial resources. You may have to expand your production facilities, develop a distribution network, or accommodate a buyer who is requesting the best terms possible and guarantees before buying your product or service. Listed below are different financing options that may be available to your export venture.
EDC offers a range of risk reduction financial products and services, to small exporters interested in export receivables insurance and export financing support. They also provide services to any exporter, of any size, operating in any sector of the economy (including the service sector) and generally looks for at least 50% Canadian content.
Explore financial services that focus on market expansion and exporting to the Canadian small business sector.
Export Market Access: A Global Expansion Program is designed to assist small to medium size organizations (SMEs) access and expand into new foreign markets that are beyond the U.S.
This support program offers financial assistance with:
Contact the Ontario Chamber of Commerce:
Export Market Access (EMA)
For other export financing programs that may be of assistance to you consult the Canada Business Exporting Financing page online.
Take advantage of available help to get your business export ready. There are organizations that offer a number of services that can help you expand to international markets.
Organizations That Can Help You Export
You can access a wide range of management resources, perspectives and data from Industry Canada's website that can help you develop and expand your markets, create alliances and find new clients.
Trade and Investment
Access in-depth, industry-specific analysis, statistics, contacts, news, events, financing and regulatory information for Canadian business from Industry Canada.
Information by Industrial Sector
The COEF is a source for the information, counselling, market intelligence, financial assistance and on the ground support you need to make your export venture a successful one.
Benefit from seminars and the help of expert international consultants from the International Trade Branch (ITB), part of the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation. The ITB can help your Ontario business start exporting or expand into new markets.
Contact the International Trade Branch:
International Trade Branch (ITB)
If you are a new or experienced exporter of food, beverage and agricultural products the Export Marketing Unit of OMAFRA offers a number of services, including counselling, seminars, trade missions, international trade shows, sourcing and market intelligence. They also administer the PROFIT Food Export Seminar; a two-day seminar that addresses the basics of exporting to the U.S. market.
PROFIT Seminar for the Program to Raise Ontario Foods International Trade
Take advantage of EDC's Foreign Exchange Facility Guarantee (FXG) by purchasing forward contracts from financial institutions and locking in exchange rates as protection against foreign currency fluctuations.
Foreign Exchange Facility Guarantee
Get assistance with government procurement, specifically in aerospace, defence and security, and emerging and developing country markets. The CCC is an export sales agency of the Government of Canada that brings buyers and Canadian exporters together through contracts built on the best possible terms and conditions.
Canadian Commercial Corporation
The Business Women in International Trade website is a gateway to a wealth of information on preparing for and succeeding in the export marketplace.
Businesswomen in International Trade
Other CBO documents of interest:
There are many trade organizations that have a strong export focus. Many of these organizations offer seminars and export information on foreign markets:
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 through the Business Info Line at 1-888-745-8888.
Information contained in this document is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute advice for any specific situation. Users concerned about the reliability of the information should consult directly with the source, or seek legal counsel.
Some of the organizations listed above are not subject to the federal Official Languages Act or the French Language Services Act of Ontario. Their services may not be available in both official languages.