Guide to Importing Food Products Commercially
Section F - Import Procedures and Documents

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Canada Border Services Agency Requirements

In order to obtain the release of a commercial shipment at the Customs office, the following documents are required:

  • two copies of the cargo control document. This document may be a manifest, waybill or some other approved document obtained from the carrier or freight forwarder.
  • two copies of an invoice to support the value of the goods. This invoice provides information concerning the shipment including: details regarding the importer and exporter, a description of the goods, the value of the goods, the country of origin and destination of the goods, and the currency of settlement. A Canada Customs' invoice or a commercial invoice containing all the required information is necessary for goods with a value of $1,600 or greater. An additional copy of the invoice is required in cases where the importer or broker intends to transmit the final accounting data through Customs Automated Data Exchange (CADEX).
  • two copies of a fully completed B3 form, for all shipments for commercial use in Canada, regardless of value. The B3 document is used for duty and tax purposes. A third copy of this form is required by Statistics Canada for shipments valued over $1,600.
  • all permits, certificates, licenses or other documentation required by Canada Border Services Agency or other government departments for the release of food shipments. Generally, original documents are necessary.

Special programs exist to speed the transit time through Customs. The Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS) allows Customs to process release information before the goods arrive, thus accelerating release or referral of goods when they do arrive. The Frequent Import Release System (FIRST) processes repetitive importations of low risk shipments with a significant savings in time.

Release on Minimum Documentation Option is another program offered by Canada Border Services Agency, to importers or brokers who post security with Canada Border Services Agency for release of goods prior to payment of duties. Importers or brokers requesting this option provide specified minimal documentation rather than the complete information otherwise required. When goods are released on minimum documentation, the importer or broker must present or transmit confirming accounting data within five full business days from the date the goods are released.

Further information regarding Customs' release systems and procedures, duties, tariff classifications and taxes may be obtained from local Canada Border Services Agency offices or from the Customs Automated Information System, which can be accessed toll free in Canada at 1-800-461-9999.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Automated Import System

AIS (Automated Import System)

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Automated Import System (CFIA-AIS) is a computerized system for the management of all imported products regulated by the Agency. This program is designed to speed up the importation of CFIA goods at the border, which often have additional specific import requirements. It also allows inspectors to focus on high risk commodities.

The CFIA-AIS interfaces electronically with the Canada Border Services Agency and links the two agencies into an electronic, single-window of service.

The program is comprised of various modules that work together as an information provision system and a tracking system.

AIRS (Automated Import Reference System)

The Automated Import Reference System is a comprehensive reference system that provides detailed information on import requirements for all Canadian Food Inspection Agency commodities.

ITS (Import Tracking System)

The Import Tracking System (ITS) enables Canadian Food Inspection Agency personnel to trace shipments from the point of arrival to their final destination. It allows for effective scheduling of inland inspections and monitoring of import activities.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) monitors the international trade of endangered species through an international permit system. (See Section B: Environment Canada, and Section E: Wildlife).

A CITES permit (import or export) must be an original document. Photocopies (except in the case of artificially-propagated plants and circus animals) and fax copies of permits are not accepted as alternatives to original documents. Permits must be obtained prior to shipment; those issued after an exportation or importation has occurred cannot be accepted as valid documents.

Foreign CITES export permits must be presented to Customs at the time of import, for Customs validation. Customs will retain the validated copy and forward it to the Canadian CITES Management Authority in Ottawa.

All live wildlife must be exported or imported according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) Live Animals Regulations and CITES Guidelines for Transport.

Further information on import requirements of CITES listed wildlife may be found on the Environment Canada's Website.

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