How to Import to Canada: A Guide to Clearing Customs

If you want to import goods to Canada, there are certain steps you will need to take to maintain compliance and keep the process efficient. The following is a brief guide to help you with imports for commercial goods of various types.

1. Prepare Imports

Before importing, you will need to take some steps to prepare, including:

• Get a Business Number (BN) – Prior to importing, you will need a Business Number from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to open an account.

• Determine which goods to import – You will also need to determine which goods to import, with in-depth descriptions, details about composition, and product samples if possible.

• Decide if you want to work with a customs broker – You have a choice of working with a customs broker or dealing directly with the Canada Border Services Agency, but a customs broker like the experts at Carson International can help ease the process and ensure you avoid costly penalties from Customs.

• Identify the country of origin for your goods

• Make sure the goods you’re importing aren’t prohibited in Canada

• Find out if any permits, regulations, or restrictions apply to your goods

2. Classify Goods

Once you’ve prepared for importing, you will need to determine the appropriate tariff classification number. Canada, along with other countries such as the U.S. and China, uses the Harmonized System (HS) to classify goods. In many cases, you will be able to use the first six digits to identify a specific good across all countries.

3. Figure Out Duties and Taxes 

After determining tariff classification, you will need to determine which tariff treatment and rate of duty apply to your goods. The CBSA’s Customs Tariff Schedule will help you determine which treatment matches your goods prior to determining the rate of duty.

Once you’ve figured out the tariff treatment, you will need to find out if goods are subject to the goods and services tax, excise duty, or excise tax. Some items such as medical products, prescription drugs, agricultural and fishing goods, and basic groceries are non-taxable.

You will then need to calculate the value for duty of the goods you wish to import. Typically, the value for duty will be the total amount that you pay a vendor for your goods, which you should be able to support with an invoice or receipt.

You will also need to determine in advance how much taxes and duty you will need to pay based on the value appearing on the invoice. Convert the value into Canadian currency using the current exchange rate. You can contact the Border Information Service for the proper exchange rate.

If this step seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. Navigating tariff classifications and treatments can be quite challenging if you’re not familiar with the industry. That’s why we recommend reaching out to professional customs brokers like us, so we can do all this heavy lifting for you. 

4. Ship and Report All Goods

The next step will be to place the order with your vendor and choose a shipping method, whether it’s rail, highway, air, marine, courier, or postal service. You will also need to determine the CBSA office where goods will be released.

You will then report your goods to the CBSA regardless of who’s transporting the goods.

What to Do Before and After Releasing Goods

You can get your goods released via either full accounting and payment of duties or the release of goods before paying for duties. You can prepare the release either on your own or work with a customs broker for assistance.

Once the goods are released, adjust for any errors in the information you provided and maintain all records for at least six years after importation. The CBSA may also verify imports and make any adjustments on their own.

Taking all of these steps and considering the aspects involved can help you keep the importation process smooth. If you’re in need of a knowledgeable customs broker to help guide you through the process, the experts at Carson International can provide reliable assistance from start to finish.

How Has COVID-19 Affected the Supply Chain?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a certain impact on the supply chain across North America. The following is a timeline of recent updates around changes made to the supply chain that we’ve been keeping track of at Carson International. Many of the current changes implemented have attempted to help maximize safety while ensuring that supply chains continue to function as needed.

April 15 – Temporarily Relaxed CFIA Labeling Requirements in Place for Foodservice Products

As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to spread in April, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) decided to suspend certain low-risk CFIA activities that had no effect on the production of safe food in Canada. Changes included increased flexibility for labeling requirements in place for foodservice products that don’t affect food safety, including products used for restaurants, hotels, and institutions.

You can read more about this update at the following link:

April 24 – FEMA Modifies Rule Banning Medical Supply Export  Products

FEMA announced plans to provide certain exemptions to a rule that temporarily banned the overseas shipment of certain medical supplies. The rule came shortly after President Trump issued an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act that would halt the export of medical products when in short supply. However, certain types of shipments are exempted from the rule according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

You can read more about this update at the following link:

April 27 – The Canadian Government Announces $50 Million to Maintain a Safe Food Supply Chain

In late April, the federal government made an announcement that it would provide farmers and other food production and process employees $50 million to go toward implementing a mandatory 14-day isolation period for all newly arrived foreign workers. The move would help maintain a safe food supply chain, a large portion of which relies on contributions from foreign workers. In addition to foreign workers, individuals exempted from the travel ban would include other foreigners with work and student visas as long as they undergo a 14-day isolation period before entering the population and workforce.

You can read more about this update at the following link:

May 1 – Supply Chain Disruptions Cause Challenges for North America

Resilience360, makers of cloud-based software that many businesses use to track and gain insight into business operations, released reports that identified certain challenges that the U.S. and Canada would face in cross-border operations. Due to the differences at the state and federal levels, the pandemic has disrupted the supply chain in several ways. In addition to challenges in the U.S. and Canada, Mexico has also experienced certain inconveniences since closing its factories in late March.

You can read more about this update at the following link:

If you would like to receive more updates about changes to the supply chain in North America, we’ll provide more information as it comes. Simply return to Carson International for future announcements or visit our CUSMA page.

How to Streamline Your Supply Chain

Maintaining efficiency across your entire supply chain can help reduce overall expenses and ultimately increase profitability. Considering the rapid developments of today’s supply chain technology like TMS, and the increasing demands of consumers, having a streamlined supply chain and top notch distribution services are crucial for success.

There are certain steps you can take to streamline your supply chain and maintain the efficiency of operations.

Audit Supply Chain Processes and Optimize Accordingly

It’s important for you to have a specific process in place to review your supply chain and identify any weaknesses that you can address. Try to evaluate your supply chain processes as soon as you can, which will enable you to find and resolve any issues that could otherwise hinder efficiency and profitability.

With more optimized processes along the supply chain, you’ll be able to improve lead times and benefit from potentially significant cost reduction. You can also maintain a consistent stock level that will cut down on costs pertaining to handling and warehousing.

Utilize Current Systems

Many outdated in-house supply chain systems may be difficult to use, unnecessarily complex, and inflexible, let alone challenging to retrofit. However, it’s important to extract any invaluable data that still might be crucial to your supply chain after an upgrade.

Using the information gathered from your legacy systems, you can more successfully integrate old systems with new ones utilizing devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other tools. As a result, you’ll be able to experience an easier transition when optimizing your supply chain.

Eliminate Any Duplicate Data

One of the key ways to increase efficiency and further decrease costs is to eliminate manual data entry, including entry of duplicate data across a variety of systems that would otherwise waste resources and time. Keeping multiple sets of the same data in several systems can also increase the risk of inaccuracies, but streamlining with automation will mitigate this risk.

Getting rid of tedious data entry tasks will also help improve employee productivity and enable them to redirect attention to more important matters, including customer interaction.

Consider the Needs of Consumers

When you streamline your supply chain, you’ll also be able to direct your attention to the bigger picture beyond simple order fulfillment, allowing you to focus on and gain a better understanding of what your customers want and need from you. Understanding your customers will be particularly crucial if you provide customized products and services as you can focus on delivering exactly what they’re looking for, leading to increased profits.

In short, improving the efficiency of your supply chain processes will improve customer satisfaction in addition to order fulfillment.

Work with Dependable Professionals

If you want to make sure your business gets what it needs to maximize efficiency and profitability across the entire supply chain, the best solution is to work with professionals who understand what a supply chain requires at every point. Working with an experienced team like the experts at Carson International can supercharge your supply chain and ensure that you benefit from a reliable solution.

Streamlining your supply chain is necessary today if you want to get the most from your operations. With a fully optimized supply chain, you can keep up with increasing demands and developing technology as you stay ahead of the curve.

Everything You Need to Know About CUSMA

Since March, there have been several updates made to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (CUSMA). The following is a timeline of all of the major announcements that we’ve been tracking here at Carson International.

March 14 – CUSMA is Approved April 23 – COAC Recommends Delaying CUSMA Entry into Force Until 2021

In March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada was considering closing the Canada-U.S. border in an effort to help halt the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, the House of Commons passed legislation that would ratify the newly established North American trade deal. In turn, the Senate signed the bill that would approve the CUSMA.

You can read more about this update at the following link:

April 23 – COAC Recommends Delaying CUSMA Entry into Force Until 2021

The Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee (COAC) suggested delaying CUSMA’s entry into force until at least January 1, 2021. COAC also recommended providing a period of implementation or transition to consider USCMA compliance for NAFTA-qualifying goods that have compliant certificates of origin. Originally, the CUSMA was to go into effect on June 1, but lawmakers and others have cited complications regarding COVID-19 as the reason for the recommended delay.

You can read more about this update at the following link:

April 27 – CUSMA Trade Agreement to Take Effect on July 1

In late April, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced to Congress that the CUSMA would go into effect on July 1, one month later than it was originally planned for implementation.

You can read more about this update at the following link:

May 8 – New De Minimis Thresholds Announced

In early May, Canada agreed to adhere to a de minimis threshold of a minimum of CAD$150.00 and CAD$40.00 for customs duties and taxes, respectively. Apart from this, no other changes went into effect around the current de minimis framework in Canada under the CUSMA. The thresholds were set to go into effect the same date as the CUSMA on July 1.

You can read more about this update at the following link:

May 12 – US Dept. of Homeland Security Receives Criticism for Inadequate CUSMA Implementation

After the DHS failed to implement CUSMA enforcement through the establishment of a designated task force by the deadline of April 28, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee pushed the Trump administration to implement enforcement as soon as possible. The delay in U.S. implementation of enforcement is a particularly sensitive matter considering the CUSMA is scheduled to go into effect by July 1.

You can read more about this update at the following link:

May 19 – Auto Manufacturers Reopen in North America Amid Challenges Around CUSMA

Automakers are resuming auto manufacturing operations throughout North America, but they anticipate certain challenges that will arise from the reliance on Canada and Mexico and more remote workplaces. Meanwhile, Mexico planned to resume operations on June 1 or sooner, depending on the ability to create safe workspaces.

You can read more about this update at the following link:

Come back to Carson International for additional updates around the CUSMA, or visit our newsroom. We will continue to provide more information as we receive it.

What is a TMS?

A transportation management system (TMS) is a kind of platform intended to help optimize shipping processes. There are certain benefits that come with a TMS that can make it worthwhile to implement, improving transparency and cost-effectiveness in the long term.

What Exactly Is a TMS?

A TMS is a subset of supply chain management that revolves around transportation solutions. It enables the automation of shipping and provides more data to help improve efficiency and lower the costs of shipping.

There are many aspects to consider when shipping goods or services, including quotes, logistics, and delivery to customer locations, all of which can be difficult to manage and maintain. A TMS makes it easier to keep shipping consistently efficient and affordable.

The Different Types of TMSs

There are many types of TMSs out there to choose from based on your specific needs. Depending on the system you select and its features and capabilities, you’ll be able to optimize various aspects of the transportation process including:

• Shipping

• Operations

• Audits

• Procurement

• Route optimization and planning

• Yard management

• Carrier management

• Freight shopping and rating

• Load building

• Visibility across the supply chain and orders

The Benefits of a TMS

Some of the benefits of implementing a TMS can include:

Simplified Shipping Processes

 A good TMS will be able to make the carrier selection process simpler by enabling an enterprise to evaluate any merchandise with a compatible carrier. In turn, companies will have the ability to make future decisions based on past shipments, pairing each shipment with the right carrier more efficiently.

Reliable Technology

A TMS can give you the technological capabilities you need to make crucial decisions around shipping processes. You’ll be able to access all quotes, carrier matches, and transit times to help you make decisions without the headache you might experience without a TMS in place.

Tracking Capabilities

A TMS will also allow you to track freight during transportation, and you can receive notifications in the event of delays or transit exceptions along the way. Issues during transport are always possible, but a good TMS will be able to let you know if anything goes wrong and the reason behind it.

Insights into Operations

A dependable TMS provides plenty of transparency through detailed analytics and reporting, which can be particularly beneficial for large-scale operations. With so many invoices and shipments to keep track of on a regular basis, it can be daunting to account for everything and maintain the efficacy of operations. However, a TMS can centralize all data and provide reports that tell you everything you need to know.

The Challenges You Could Face with a TMS

One of the biggest challenges that you may experience with a TMS is the need for additional capacity and expertise as the volume of shipments increases over time. As your business grows, it can become more difficult to manage your operations without the necessary accommodations and assistance. If you’re in need of a scalable solution, the experts at Carson International can give you what you need to continue to benefit from a TMS for your operations.

If you want to keep your shipping operations efficient and cost-effective, having a good TMS can be the key to success. Using the right system, you can benefit from total transparency and the ability to make the right decisions for your operations.

Webinar — Life After NAFTA for the Apparel Industry: The New USMCA

apparel rack

Carson International, in partnership with the Canadian Apparel Federation and Export Development Canada, are pleased to present this one-hour webinar on June 4 for members of the apparel industry.

Join Carson Vice President, Dave Pentland, and Bob Kirke of CAF, as they discuss key provisions of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and changing customs procedures which will come into force on July 1, 2020.

The purpose of this webinar will be to explain concrete issues regarding the flow of goods across the border when the agreement enters into force. Specifically, we will discuss new Origin Certification, the TPL Program, De minimis, changes to Rules of Origin (and a timeline for their implementation) and other provisions of concern to apparel firms.

Date: Thursday, June 4, 2020
Time: 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. EDT

Who should attend: Owners, Senior Managers, Technical staff, Compliance Managers involved in the import, export, distribution of Apparel Goods. Registrants who are unable to attend the live webinar for any reason will receive a copy of the presentation following the event.

Attendance for Carson International clients is complimentary. To receive your passcode for complimentary attendance, please contact

Once you have received your passcode, register by selecting the “complimentary” option.

Why Do I Need a Customs Broker?

Many businesses working with a small number of products and trade lanes can benefit from working with their freight forwarder,

International trade across the world’s longest border is a complex industry full of shifting regulations and rapidly evolving technology. Customs brokers navigate the ever-changing world of shipping for you, to help individuals and businesses clear customs with ease. Reliable customs brokers will have all of the resources needed to help your business stay up-to-date regarding any technological or regulatory changes

There are certain specific benefits of working with a customs broker. The following are a few of the key ways your business can experience improved operations.

Enhanced Risk Management

Customs brokers can help make sure that importers are in compliance with the latest customs regulations. A good broker will also be able to address and handle any complexities and inform you about how to further reduce your tax burden and duties. In turn, you’ll be able to minimize the risks associated with importing and exporting.

Reduction of Fixed Costs

Customs brokers possess all of the technology and tools required to transfer documentation and maintain communication with customs. As a result, you don’t need to worry about procuring the software or hardware or performing any maintenance, which helps reduce the costs that you would otherwise see when operating entirely in-house.

Flexibility of Staff 

With a customs broker behind customs, you can also avoid the need to look for licensed specialists or brokers on staff, which gives you more time and energy to focus on other more important aspects of your business. Customs brokers are also responsible for continually monitoring shipments to ensure they avoid any potential issues along the way. Subsequently, you won’t need to rely on staff to monitor your shipments at any point, which frees them up to perform other tasks.

Each of these benefits makes it worthwhile to hire a customs broker to handle imports. In the process, you’ll be able to avoid potential importing issues and save more money and time.

The Benefits of Hiring Carson to Be Your Customs Broker

If you’re in need of a customs broker you can trust to manage imports without issue, Carson International is here to give you everything you need as a U.S. and Canadian customs brokerage with over 50 years of experience serving the International Trade community.

Carson’s compliance solutions offer the ideal combination of flexibility and reliability, whether you’re a startup or a global company.

We are committed to maintaining compliance and remaining up-to-date on all of the latest regulations and technology in the industry. With our services behind your business, you can focus on growing and leave the customs process to us. We have all of the knowledge and data necessary to keep the process efficient and error-free, with total transparency that enables you to maintain complete visibility of the supply chain.

We’ll work with you to exceed your expectations and help your business maintain compliance, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.

What Is the Difference Between Logistics and Freight Forwarding?

While freight forwarders and logistics companies may seem similar or even synonymous, there are some differences between the two to keep in mind. Unlike logistics companies, freight forwarders might be partners with a network of logistics companies, but they do not have any assets themselves.

What Is a Freight Forwarding Company?

Freight forwarders tend to partner with several logistics companies either nationally or internationally, which means that price checking capabilities are far better and more thorough than what you would get when working directly with a logistics company. Freight forwarders also have more knowledge and experience around specialty companies, which often vary greatly regarding types of transport, house moving, fragile goods, and lead times, among other elements.

What Is a Logistics Company?

Logistics companies, unlike freight forwarders, own all of their own assets including intermodal fleets of trucks, boats, or planes, but without any access to actual shipping routes. Logistics companies often specialize in specific areas such as dry box, long haul, cold storage, intracity, or large scale. At the same time, they’ll attempt to cover every aspect of the supply chain.

Generally, a logistics company is responsible for managing goods’ physical movement along the supply chain. In some cases, they may also manage documentation.

What are the Benefits of a Freight Forwarder?

There are multiple benefits of working with a freight forwarding company as opposed to a logistics company. The advantages include:

  • A network of multiple logistics companies that helps reduce prices with more diversity
  • Technology-based freight forwarders can provide instant quotes
  • Pricing is more transparent, as most freight forwarders will provide customers with in-depth breakdowns of all costs
  • Maintain data regarding specialty routes along with route optimization to help minimize delays and ensure timely arrival of goods
  • Have a good understanding of logistics companies in many different specialty areas, including household goods, fragile goods, cold storage, and others

In addition to these benefits, freight forwarders can also handle all of the paperwork associated with freight forwarding, including customs documentation, bills of lading, shipper’s export declarations, insurance forms, and letters of invoice.

Why You Should Turn to Carson for Reliable Freight Forwarding

Supply chains need freight forwarders that have a good understanding of the goods involved, along with the various suppliers and trade routes. Carson International can give you top-tier customer service and dependable solutions regardless of your needs. Some of the specific advantages you’ll get with Carson include:

North American Coverage

With offices located in Toronto, Montreal, Washington, and Vancouver, Carson can meet all international freight needs.

Global Coverage

Carson has a dedicated network of logistics partners all over the world, which provides optimal international coverage via all major global logistics hubs.

Asia-Pacific Specialists 

Carson specializes in cargo management through the Asia-Pacific logistics hub, with many years of experience using this trade lane.

Best-in-Class Tracking Software

We also maximize visibility across the supply chain using some of the best tracking software available. You can easily access and view all shipment documentation, reports, and billing information using our convenient web app.

Customizable Solutions

Depending on your specific needs, we can customize our solutions to proactively identify and address any potential issues anywhere in your supply chain.

All of these advantages make Carson International a potentially invaluable asset to your operations as a leading freight forwarder.

How to Choose a Customs Broker for Your Business

If you’ve decided to work with a customs broker to help maintain compliance, it’s important to find the right broker. Taking the following steps can help you make the right selection and find a customs broker you can trust.

Find a Broker with Industry Experience

While a broker might be dependable and have plenty of experience in a variety of industries, you need to find a broker that has more experience in your specific industry. You might have specific products that you work with that a general customs broker might be more unfamiliar with, which could lead to problems.

Keep in mind that different brokers will have experience with different types of products or agencies, meaning that you need to find one that knows how to work with your products and meet your needs.

Request References and Reviews 

Don’t choose a broker based solely on what they have to say about their services and reliability. You can verify their legitimacy and reputation by finding out what their past and existing clients have to say about them. Requesting a reference is an important way to understand your providers expertise in the Customs Brokerage environment.

Make Sure the Broker Can Accommodate a Large Volume of Goods

If you’re working with a wide variety or a large volume of products, try to find a broker that can handle them. Brokers should have a good understanding of your company’s needs and all requirements in place for imports and exports. The right broker will be able to properly allocate budget, time, and effort.

Select an Approved Broker

Brokers should use approved customs declaration systems that utilize up-to-date technology along with in-house management. Also, make sure the broker is either a licensed customs broker or a registered declaration bureau authorized to work in your jurisdictions.

Approved brokers will have all of the technology required for efficient transferral of documentation such as customs permits, packing lists, and invoices.

Contrast and Compare Brokers

When looking for the perfect customs broker for your business, don’t settle for the first broker you find, regardless of how compatible they might seem. Look around and compare pricing and other aspects such as specialization and experience.

Look for a Customs Broker that Adapts to Your Needs

It doesn’t matter if you’re a mult-national corporation with containers to move, or a single entrepreneur that needs to ship product orders for their start up–the world of international shipping is complex, and you need to partner with someone that will customize a solution exactly to your business’ unique needs. If you work with a broker that can provide 24/7 service, 7 days a week, they can stay up to date on order tracking and solve any potential problems or delays as they happen–not just during office hours. Selecting a customs broker that truly listens to your needs, and adapts their services to help satisfy them can mean the difference between satisfying your customers and wowing them. 

Taking all of these steps will help narrow down your selection when searching for the right broker. Once you locate a good customs broker, you’ll be able to benefit from consistent compliance and cost-effectiveness.

What are the Different Types of Freight?

In today’s modern supply chain, a variety of flexible freight solutions exist to meet the unique business needs of organizations around the world. Depending on your products, suppliers, and trade patterns, you may need one, or a combination of freight options to get your shipments where they need to go. With the help of professional logistics experts, you can take advantage of these efficient trade solutions to get your goods anywhere in the world.

Air Freight Shipping: Air Freight and Cargo

Air freight shipping involves the transportation of goods by charter or commercial air carriers. Along with being the fastest way to move products around the world, which is ideal for time-critical cargo, this form of shipping allows goods to be delivered to a wide range of locations, both nationally and internationally.

Because their shipping times are quite short, air freight services often have low insurance premiums. Additionally, since air freight travels through highly-secured airports, this freight option offers enhanced security.

Ocean freight shipping: Sea Cargo

Sea freight shipping uses ocean carriers to transport goods packed in large standardize size cargo containers. Generally, cargo containers are picked up by shipping vessels at major ports around the world and travel through specific freight lanes to reach their target destination. 

Although ocean freight shipping takes longer than air freight shipping, it’s often recommended for heavy and bulky shipments because it’s usually less expensive. While air freight shipping factors weight into the total cost, ocean freight shipping charges only by container. In general, a full container (standard size 20’ or 40’x 40’) is charged a single flat rate, while less than container loads (LCL) are charged by cubic meters. If you go the LCL route, your goods will be packed with other shipments in the same container.

Ground Transportation: Land Freight

Ground shipping involves the movement of goods by railway or by truck. While this type of shipping can be used on its own, it is often used in combination with air freight or ocean freight services to move cargo before or after the airport or seaport. When multiple shipping methods are used, it is referred to as intermodal freight transport. Ground transportation services can take cargo directly from the good’s origin to its required destination, which is often referred to as door-to-door shipping. Ground shipping options include:

Rail freight shipping

Freight train shipping uses extensive railway systems to ship cargo to its intended destination. A flexible option that is usually cheaper and more environmentally friendly than other options, railway shipping can carry standard size cargo containers, bulk commodities, vehicles, and other specialized options.

Less Than Truck Load Shipping (LTL)

LTL shipping is a great option for customers who have smaller loads to ship because this method combines shipments from several customers into one truck trailer. Customers using this method pay for the portion their freight takes up in a standard trailer.

Full Truckload Freight Shipping (FTL)

FTL is when one customer uses up the entire space in a standard truck trailer to carry their goods to a destination. Some customers may also put a partial load on its own in one truckload. This option is generally quicker than LTL because it’s only used by one customer for one destination.

You don’t have to figure out the right freight option to use on your own. Carson International’s freight experts can help you determine the best option for your supply chain demands. Get a quote for free.