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.
In addition to the information in this guide, learn more about importing from the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA). Visit their website to access more resources and read their importing guide.
There are a few basics that you should know before you bring products into Canada. Most of the steps involved in this guide can only be completed if your business is already 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
When you import products into Canada, you must obtain a business number from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The Business Number acts as your number for several accounts, including the Harmonized Sales Tax and Importer/Exporter Account Number.
Make sure that you register for a business number with the CRA before you bring products into the country.
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 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 Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade 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 BizPaL—an online search tool—to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact the Business Info Line to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and Licences Wizard
Contact the Business Info Line:
Before your goods arrive in Canada, you may need to submit information about the shipment to the Canada Border Services Agency. Find out how the ACI program will affect your business.
Advance Commercial Information (ACI)
Imported foods have specific labelling and ingredient requirements. Check with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to find out if there are labelling rules that will affect your imports.
CFIA - Imported Foods
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
Consumer products need specific labelling when they are sold in Canada. You usually need to include the following on product labels:
The Competition Bureau regulates labelling for most “non-food” consumer products. To learn more about the rules for packaging, labelling and advertising your products, contact the Competition Bureau directly or refer to the following link:
Contact the Competition Bureau:
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.
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:
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).
There are customs programs that may apply to your business including:
Once you have been actively importing low-risk products for at lest 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 Customs Self Assessment Program
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
For other information that relates to starting your business, you can read the following guides:
Additional resources that may be of interest to you include:
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.