Coming back home to Canada: Conditions on your personal exemptions
Except for restricted items, you can bring back any amount of goods as long as you are willing to pay the duty and taxes and any provincial or territorial assessments that apply. This rule applies even if you do not qualify for a personal exemptions.
You are eligible for a personal exemptions if you are:
- a Canadian resident returning from a trip outside Canada
- a former resident of Canada returning to live in this country, or
- a temporary resident of Canada returning from a trip outside Canada.
Even young children and infants are entitled to a personal exemptions. As a parent or guardian, you can make a declaration on behalf of a child as long as the goods you are declaring are for the child's use.
You cannot combine your personal exemptions with those of another person or transfer them to someone else.
You cannot combine your 48-hour exemption (CAN$800) with your seven-day exemption (CAN$800) for a total exemption of CAN$1,600.
In general, the goods you include in your personal exemptions must be for your personal or household use. These goods include souvenirs, gifts that you received from friends or relatives living outside Canada or prizes that you won.
Goods you bring in for commercial use or for another person do not qualify for the exemption and are subject to applicable duty and taxes.
You should have all purchases made abroad and your receipts readily available. Be prepared to make a full and accurate declaration, including the amount of goods you are bringing with you, in Canadian dollars.
Making a full declaration and paying any duty and taxes you owe is a simple, straightforward process. You can pay by cash, travellers' cheque, Visa, American Express or MasterCard. The CBSA also accepts debit cards at most offices. If an amount is no more than CAN$2,500, you can sometimes pay by personal cheque with suitable identification. A border services officer will give you a receipt showing the calculations and amount you paid.
Arriving with $10,000 or more
Under Canada's Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
, there are no restrictions on the amount of money that you can bring into or take out of Canada. You must, however, report amounts of currency equal to or greater than CAN $10,000 or its equivalent in a foreign currency to the Canada Border Services Agency. These rules apply whether you are bringing the money into, or taking it out of Canada, or carrying the money with you or sending it by mail or by courier.
Food, plants, animals and related products
Certain food, plants, animals and related products pose a risk to Canada. Food can carry disease, such as E. coli. Plants and plant products can carry invasive alien species, such as the Asian Long-Horned Beetle. Animals and animal products can carry diseases, such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease.
Because of these risks, the Government of Canada regulates the import and export of controlled food, plants, animals and related products to and from Canada.
The food, plant and animal-related threats that pose a risk to Canada are constantly changing. Refer to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) to obtain the latest CFIA import requirements. AIRS is an automated reference tool that uses a question and answer approach to guide you through a series of questions about the Harmonized System (HS) Code, origin, destination, end use and miscellaneous qualifiers of the product you wish to import.
Hint: Search AIRS by "key word" if you do not know the HS Code of the good you want to import.
Certain species of plants and animals might also be subject to the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These requirements will not appear in AIRS, so it is important to check the CITES Control List as well.
Parts or derivatives of endangered species can be found in many common souvenirs such as clothing, jewellery, musical instruments, herbal or traditional medicines, cosmetic creams or food products. Souvenirs made from endangered animals and plants may be freely sold in the country you are visiting. The fact that they are available does not mean that they can be legally bought or sold, or brought across the border. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an agreement to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. You may bring some souvenirs into Canada made from some CITES-listed species without a CITES permit, as long as you have the souvenirs on your person or in your accompanying personal baggage. It is your responsibility to know if you are importing restricted wildlife species (plants and animals, and their derivatives) – check the CITES Species List, and follow all of the requirements to legally transport them. You may also consult the Endangered Species and the International Traveller’s brochure.
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) may require permits and/or impose an import quota on certain commodities. For more information, visit the Export and Import Controls Bureau section of the DFATD website.
While you are outside Canada, you can send gifts free of duty and taxes to friends at home in Canada under certain conditions. To qualify, each gift must not be worth more than CAN$60 and cannot be a tobacco product, an alcoholic beverage or advertising matter. If the gift is worth more than CAN$60, the recipient will have to pay regular duty and taxes on the excess amount. It is always a good idea to include a gift card to avoid any misunderstanding.
Gifts you send from outside Canada do not count as part of your personal exemptions, but gifts you bring back in your personal baggage do and are treated like any other purchases.
Because jewellery is often very valuable and can be difficult to identify, you should travel with as little as possible.
Take the following steps before you leave Canada. It will make it easier for you to re-enter the country with jewellery:
- Obtain an appraisal report and a signed and dated photograph of each piece of jewellery from a recognized Canadian gemologist, jeweller or your insurance agent.
- Obtain written certification that the items or jewellery in the photographs are the ones described in the appraisal report.
- Take the jewellery appraisal reports, certification statements and photographs to a CBSA office to be validated.
- If the jewellery was purchased in Canada, keep the sales receipt.
- If you imported the goods previously, make sure you have a copy of your receipt.
- Carry the appraisal reports, certifications and photographs when you are travelling outside Canada.
Prizes and awards
In most cases, you have to pay regular duty and taxes on prizes and awards you receive outside Canada. Prizes can be declared as part of your personal exemptions and duty and taxes must be paid on any excess amount.
Non-resalable prizes such as medals, trophies or plaques are generally duty- and tax-free. For more information, call the Border Information Service at 1-800-461-9999 FREE within Canada. TTY is also available within Canada at 1-866-335-3237 FREE. From outside Canada, call 204-983-3500 or 506-636-5064.