Anytime you travel internationally—even across the US-Canada border—you have to go through customs. If you were to fly to Hawaii from mainland United States, even, you would probably have to deal with customs, though in a minimal capacity. This is important, of course, for ensuring that nobody smuggles illicit goods between countries but it can also be important for keeping out dangerous species of insects—or even bacteria—which might be native to fruits or vegetables. Customs is also important for ensuring that if there is a fee or duty you need to pay, you can pay it before crossing into the other country (so there are no problems later).
Fortunately the US-Canada border situation is a simple one. Obviously, both countries have similar monetary systems and similar values. They have similar laws and, most importantly, speak the same language. Indeed, then, crossing the border tends to be very easy. Of course, you may also have to fill out some paperwork and pay a few fees but that is pretty much to be expected. Sure, Canada drives in km/h while Americans drive in mph but, really, both societies drive the same speeds.
If you are planning to stay in Canada you can basically just follow these steps to import your personal belongings; or you can use a professional Clearit customs brokerage firm to help you.
FILL OUT THE APPROPRIATE CUSTOMS CLEARANCE FORMS
You can find the customs forms you need at the Canada Border Services Agency website. Once there, you can also upload the related shipping documents and even elect to have power of attorney so you can have more control over your customs process.
MAKE YOUR PAYMENT
After you fill out your paperwork you will receive a request for payment. Be sure to pay your invoice in full if you want your goods to be efficiently transported across the border.
This is actually the most difficult part of the goods clearance process: simply waiting for the agencies to process your paperwork and your payment. Depending on how you choose to ship your goods, this could take hours or days.
- If you ship by boat, clearance can take up to 2 days (after the boat arrives at the dock)
- If you ship by plane, the goods will be placed into a warehouse once the plane has landed; they will be evaluated within days
- If you sip by truck you can only process your clearance once the truck successfully crosses the border. Obviously, this could take the least amount of time depending on the time of day and complexity of your inspection.