Yes, cross-border shopping has declined over the years, but even with a low loonie, Canadians are still heading south in search of discounted clothing, cheaper cheese, and lower-priced flights. According to the Conference Board of Canada, travel to the US is expected to return to normal growth in 2017. And with Black Friday fast approaching on November 25, we’re already strategizing our descent!
Shopping in the US can be an adventure – you never know what deals you’ll score, and that’s just half the fun! But in case you experience an accident or medical emergency, make sure to get travel medical insurance before you go.
When planning a trip, you’ve likely asked yourself, “How much can I bring back to Canada?” or “What can I bring back to Canada?” Here are some quick tips at-a-glance to help you answer these questions.
How much can I bring back to Canada when cross-border shopping?
As Canadian residents, we’re eligible for personal exemptions when returning to Canada. What’s a personal exemption, you ask? It’s the dollar value of goods that you can bring back to Canada without paying regular duty and taxes, which varies based on your trip length. To help you out, here are the current duty free limits for Canadians:
|Duty-Free Limits for Canadians|
|Returning after less than 24 hours||For same day shoppers, all goods brought in from the US (including alcohol) can be charged with applicable duty and taxes.|
|Returning after 24 to 48 hours||Up to $200 (CAD) is permitted, excluding alcohol and tobacco products. If you buy more than $200 worth of goods, you’ll have to pay duty.|
|Returning after 48 hours or more||Maximum of $800 (CAD) is permitted. Alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco can be included in this amount, and you can bring either up to 1.5 litres of wine, 1.14 litres of alcoholic beverages or up to 8.5 litres of beer.|
Need more info? Check out the personal exemptions mini guide.
What can I bring back to Canada when shopping in the US?
Whether you’re bringing back luxury goods, outlet bargains, gifts or weekly groceries, it’s important to know what you can and can’t bring back to Canada. Restrictions vary on what food and groceries you can bring back, depending on the product—some may even vary based on province.
Basic groceries and snacks are duty-free, but for most non-edible consumer goods, you’ll have to pay the applicable duties and taxes. Because jewellery is valuable and hard to identify, make sure you have an appraisal report, receipts and certification to show where you purchased your jewellery and how much your items cost.
Grocery items that you can bring back to Canada from the US
Food, plants and animals pose a risk to Canada as they can carry disease or invasive species. Because of this, the Canadian government regulates importing and exporting these types of products to and from Canada.
As of March 2016, all raw poultry, eggs and raw pet foods that are sourced, processed, packaged or shipped from the US are currently banned due to a high risk of avian influenza.
Use our table below as a guide to find out which items you can bring into Canada, along with their limits:
|Permitted Grocery Items|
|Meat and poultry products (e.g. jerky, sausages, deli meats)*||20 kg per person|
|Baked goods and candies||Up to 20 kg per person (shouldn’t contain meat)|
|Fish and seafood||All species except:|
• Chinese mitten crab
|Instant formula (commercially packaged)||Up to 20 kg per person|
|Dairy (e.g. cheese, milk, yogurt, butter)||Up to 20 kg per person|
|Permitted Fruits and Vegetables|
|Fresh||15 packages or less up to 250 kg (excluding potatoes; limit is one bag up to 4 kg)|
|Dried (including herbs)||15 packages per person up to 250 kg|
|Frozen (including herbs)||• Fruits – 15 packages or cans per person up to 250 kg|
• Vegetables – Up to 20 kg per person
* Meat and poultry packages should clearly state the type of product and include proof of origin in order to cross the border.
Note for BC Residents: fresh apples, stone fruit (apricots, nectarines, peaches, etc.) and potatoes are not allowed back into BC – think twice before you stock up on these items!
For more information, check out the guidelines for importing food, animal and plant products on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website.
How much alcohol and tobacco can I bring into Canada?
You must be of legal drinking age in order to bring alcohol and tobacco into Canada (18 years for Alberta, Manitoba & Quebec; 19 years for the remaining provinces and territories), and you must be returning after 48 hours or more.
|Alcohol||Limits & Estimates|
|Wine||1.5 litres or 2 750 ml bottles|
|Liquor||1.14 litres or 1 large standard bottle|
|Beer or ale||8.5 litres or approx. 24 cans or bottles|
|Tobacco Products**||• 200 cigarettes|
• 50 cigars
• 200 g (7 ounces) manufactured tobacco
• 200 tobacco sticks
** You may need to pay a special duty for cigarettes or tobacco products unless they are marked, “DUTY PAID CANADA DROIT ACQUITTÉ.”
What items am I prohibited from bringing into Canada?
Just as it’s important to know what you can bring into the country, you should also be aware of what you can’t. Here are a few surprising items you’re not allowed to bring into Canada:
- Baby walkers
- Infant self-feeding devices
- Jequirity beans
- Lawn darts with elongated tips
- Second hand mattresses (unless you have a document that certifies that the mattress has been cleaned and fumigated)
For the full list of items prohibited from importing into Canada, check the Consumer Product Safety section on Health Canada’s website.
Declaration, documentation and duties
Always declare all of your purchases to speed up your border verification and clearance. There are specific items that may require documents such as valid permits or certificates of origin. These include:
- Meat and dairy products
- Live animals
You can bring most non-edible consumer goods into Canada, but you’ll have to pay duty and taxes based on your province of residence for goods imported for personal use such as apparel, appliances, electronics, sporting goods and toys. Head over to the Canada Border Services Agency’s duty and taxes estimator to get a ballpark idea of the duty you may need to pay.
Now that you’re prepped for your next foray into the States, it’s time to enjoy your cross-border shopping trip! If you’re headed to the US for Black Friday, check out our 3 cross-border tips for your Black Friday spree. And if you’re a frequent traveller, find out how you can track your Canadian border crossing history online.
What are your top questions or doubts regarding what you can bring back to Canada? Share with us in the comments below!