If you are entering Canada with the intention of establishing, for the first time, a residence for a period of not less than one year, then you may qualify for duty- and tax-free importation of your personal and household goods.
Who are considered Settlers?
Under customs legislation, Settlers mean all individuals who enter Canada with the intention of establishing, for the first time, a residence for a period of not less than 12 months.
It is important to know that the status of a person for customs purposes is not always the same as the person’s status for immigration purposes.
Persons coming to Canada for the purposes of employment for a period exceeding 36 months (other than United States Preclearance personnel) are at first arrival considered to be Settlers to Canada even though they may be considered Temporary Residents for immigration purposes;
Persons entering Canada to become Permanent Residents without the intention of residing immediately in Canada are not considered Settlers to Canada since they do not have any intention of remaining in Canada at that time, and will live outside Canada for an undetermined period of time. Therefore, under customs legislation, these persons are considered visitors to Canada, even if they are Permanent Residents for immigration purposes.
Who are considered Former Residents?
Former Residents of Canada are persons who are returning to Canada to resume residence in Canada after having been residents of another country for a period of not less than one year. Persons who establish themselves as residents of another country for a period of at least one year may make return visits to Canada (as non-resident visitors) without jeopardizing their former resident entitlement.
However, persons who do not establish themselves as residents of another country during their absence from Canada, such as those on extended vacations, voyages or world cruises, are only eligible to the former resident entitlement if the duration of their absence is a continuous period of at least one year, without any return to Canada having been made during that time. Should these persons make return visits to Canada, they will be entitled to a personal exemption as described in the publication called “I Declare”.
Before leaving for Canada
Before you leave for Canada, you should prepare two copies of a list (preferably typewritten) of all the goods you intend to bring into Canada as part of your personal effects. The list should indicate the value, make, model and serial number (when applicable) of all the goods.
You should describe each item of jewellery you plan to bring into Canada on the list of goods you submit. Since jewellery is difficult to describe accurately, it is best to use the wording from your insurance policy or jeweller’s appraisal and to include photographs that have been dated and signed by the jeweller or a gemologist. This information makes it easier to identify the jewellery when you first enter Canada, and later on when you return from a trip abroad with this jewellery.
Divide the list into two sections. In the first section, list the goods you are bringing with you; in the second, list the goods to follow. Goods that arrive later will only qualify for duty- and tax-free importation under your entitlement as a settler or former resident if they are on your original list.
Items you can import duty- and tax-free
Settlers and Former Residents can include the following personal and household effects in their duty- and tax-free entitlement:
- clothing and linen;
- family heirlooms;
- private collections of coins, stamps and art;
- personal computers;
- musical instruments;
- hobby tools and other hobby items;
- personal vehicles;
- pleasure boats and the trailers to carry them (trailers are subject to Transport Canada requirements);
- mobile trailers, not exceeding 2.6 metres (9 feet) in width, that the owner is capable of moving on his or her own;
- utility trailers;
- motor homes;
- private aircraft; and
- tool sheds or garages that do not attach to or form part of a dwelling.
Value limitation (CAN$10,000)
If you are a former resident of Canada, any single personal or household item (including an automobile) that is worth more than CAN$10,000 on the date you import it is subject to applicable duty and taxes on the amount that is over CAN$10,000. This applies to items acquired after March 31, 1977.
Ownership, possession and use requirements
To import goods duty- and tax-free, Settlers must have owned, possessed and used the goods prior to their arrival in Canada and Former Residents must have owned, possessed and used the goods for at least six months before returning to resume residence.
It is important that you meet these three requirements. For example, if you owned and possessed the goods without using them, the goods will be subject to duty and taxes. Please note that leased goods are subject to duty and taxes because the CBSA does not consider that you own them. If you have bills of sale and registration documents, they can help you prove that you meet these requirements.
Even if your goods meet the ownership, possession and use requirements, they must still meet other government department requirements. For information on other restrictions and/or requirements for goods being imported into Canada, see the section called “Restrictions”.
Declaring your goods
When you arrive, even if you have no goods with you at the time, you must give your list of goods to the border services officer at your first point of arrival in Canada. Based on the list of goods you submit, the officer will complete a Form B4, Personal Effects Accounting Document, assign a file number to it and give you a copy of the completed form as a receipt. You will need to present your copy of this form to claim free importation of your unaccompanied goods when they arrive. Goods to follow may be subject to import restrictions before you can import them.
To facilitate the clearance process, you can complete Form B4, in advance of your arrival at the first port of entry in Canada. You can obtain a copy of the form on the website.
Disposing of goods you imported duty- and tax-free
If you import goods duty- and tax-free into Canada and if you sell or give the goods away within the first year of importing them into Canada, you will have to pay any applicable duty and taxes immediately. If you divert the goods for commercial use, the same rule applies.