How to Save Time and Money in Exporting to Canada

October 28, 2015

pic-export-shippingFilling out customs documents can be complex, even when shipping to our Northern neighbor. To save time and money, it is essential to ensure the required documents accompany your shipment – and that they’re complete and accurate – to avoid border delays. The four documents which you must include with every shipment when exporting goods into Canada are:

  • Canada Customs Invoice, or a Commercial Invoice
  • Bill of Lading
  • Manifest or Cargo Control Document
  • Shipper’s Export Declaration

On the Canada Customs Invoice (Commercial Invoice), make sure that the following required information is included on the invoice:

  • Vendor/exporter full legal name, address, and country
  • Consignees full name and address
  • Detailed description of each item being shipped
  • Net and gross weights (net weight excludes packaging)
  • Unit price of each item (using currency of settlement)
  • Extended price
  • Currency of settlement
  • Terms of delivery and terms of payment
  • Date on which goods began continuous journey to Canada
  • Reference numbers (purchaser’s order number)
  • Import license (if applicable)
  • Freight charges/insurance

The Bill of Lading (BOL) is issued to a carrier by you, the exporter, and describes the goods to be shipped. The carrier acknowledges their receipt and the BOL states the terms of the contract for their carriage. A copy of the BOL is also forwarded to the importer to arrange for pick-up of the goods, and a third copy is kept for the carrier’s records.

The Manifest or Cargo Control Document (CCD) is a list of the contents of the shipment prepared by the carrier with information provided by you, the exporter, to be shown to officials for customs clearance. A manifest/CCD has its own identifier called the cargo control number. Once submitted and accepted by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the manifest and cargo control number are monitored by CBSA to ensure the proper clearance and closure of shipment. The most commonly used manifest is a Highway Form A8A.

The Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED) is required if goods are being exported from the U.S. and are controlled exports. To find out if your goods fall under this classification, you must check the commerce control list by contacting the bureau of Export Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The SED must be prepared in English, and be typed or written in a non-erasable medium. The original should be signed by the exporter, or its authorized forwarding or other agent. If you are using an outside agent to prepare an SED, you must grant the agent formal power of attorney through written authorization.

Documents for clearance: Below is a list of documents that must accompany each shipment:

  • PARS Notification cover sheet
  • Canada Customs Invoice
  • E-Manifest or Cargo Control Department
  • Bill of Lading
  • Other Government Departments (OGD) documents, if applicable
  • Certificates of Origin (if goods are qualified)
  • Shipper’s Export Declaration (if goods are deemed as controlled imports)

Documents required in special circumstances:

  • Packing List – Optional, with no standard format for composing them. The packing list is the detailed list of contents of the shipments including quantities, items, model numbers, dimensions and net gross weights.
  • Import Permits – Additional documents that may need to be completed if your goods fall under certain categories. Only necessary if your goods fall under Canadian Other Government Department (OGD) regulations on items such as food, drugs, textiles, etc.
  • NAFTA Certificate of Origin – A North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Certificate of Origin is the document that shows where the goods were produced. This is required if your goods have been qualified as NAFTA-eligible. You must produce a country of origin certificate to ensure your NAFTA eligibility on goods produced or substantially manufactured in a member country.

Livingston’s Trade Advisors are also available to help answer any questions you may have. Reach out to us at 1-844-655-6411. And remember, NSBA members get access to exclusive rates – as little as $35 per transaction – when partnering with Livingston for customs clearance.  For more information click here.


* This article was contributed by Ilsie Berlanga, Director of Marketing, Small Business at Livingston International, an NSBA corporate partner