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Import Checklist

There are many confusing steps and various parties in the international shipping process


  • Exporters

  • Freight Forwarders

  • Carriers

  • Customs brokers, steamship lines

  • Communication barriers and cultural differences, and

  • Rules and regulations can slow down your first shipments if not done properly


The five basics steps you need to know before importing are:

1. What country are you going to buy from?

Different source countries can yield different import regulations. While the item itself might be cheap to buy, there might be other factors to consider that can affect the cost. Requirements for importing depend on a wide variety of criteria. Research such as whether an item is subject to permit or licensing regulations, eligible for reduced rates of duty, or what documentation may be required can only be determined only if you know the commodities HS Tariff Classification number.


2. Find the best foreign supplier

  • Check their certifications

  • Align manufacturing and shipping locations

  • Look for expertise in your product type and target market

  • Find out if they can make enough of what you need

  • Evaluate the geopolitical climate


It is always a good idea to meet the supplier and discuss a favorable contract and incoterms.

3. Research duties / tax, requirements and documentation

Import duty is determined by the HS Tariff Classification, and most often a percentage of the declared value. Import duty is unique to each product being imported, its declared value, its country of origin, and other factors like anti-dumping legislation and quota controls. Import duty values can be as low as zero or as high as 300% (or more) of the product’s value.

Requirements and documentation can also be determined once you have the HS Tariff Classification. There many participating government agencies involved that could require information:

  • CBSA

  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency

  • Transport Canada

  • Health Canada

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada

  • Global Affairs Canada

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada

  • Natural Resources Canada

  • Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

  • Public Health Agency of Canada


4. Align with a good Freight and Customs Manager

You already have enough to worry about. Work with professionals that can provide guidance and take care of the complicated research and required actions on your behalf… so you can concentrate on your business.

5. Don’t rush, allow time to plan and ship

Do leave things till the last minute as this might add unnecessary cost, and always consider that delays might happen during the process:

  • Goods might not be produced on time

  • The vessel might not sail as scheduled

  • Routes may change in transit

  • Goods might be held up in the Customs process


Be prepared for all this and plan accordingly.


Do your research or consult with a professional to understand the process of importing goods correctly.

International shipping is becoming more and more common, finding the right partners and understanding the process is critical to your success.

Checklist for Importing Commercial Goods into Canada (



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