There are lots of reasons to move to Canada. If you are a resident that is moving back home after living or working abroad you are someone with authorization to return to Canada and you need to bring your Personal Goods back with you. That is what this article will cover in more detail.It is good to know what the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Regulations are with respect to Canadian Residents making the move to Canada after living abroad for at least one year and bringing your personal and household goods back into Canada free from duty and taxes. Former Residents of Canada returning to live in Canada are entitled to certain benefits when it comes to their goods. All the goods returning must have been acquired by the person for personal and household use only and been actually owned, possessed and used abroad for at least six months before returning to Canada. The following goods are exempt from the six month ownership, possession and use requirements:

     
  • Alcohol and tobacco products
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  • A bride's trousseau, owned by and in the possession and imported by a recently married person or a bride-to-be whose anticipated marriage is to take place within three months of the date of her return to Canada
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  • Wedding presents owned by, in the possession of and imported by the recipient
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  • Any goods imported by a person who resided abroad for at least 5 years immediately prior to returning to Canada and who prior to the authorized return to Canada owned and possessed the goods.
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  • Any goods acquired as replacements for goods that were destroyed or stolen while away. Evidence of loss will be required.
How To Import Personal Belongings vs Casual Goods

Other Exemptions

Some exceptions exist to this regulation and some require clarification:

     
  • If you established yourself as a resident of another country for at least one year you can make return visits to Canada only as a non-resident visitor without jeopardizing the benefits of doing so.
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  • If you do NOT establish yourself as a resident of another country and are absent for at least one year you can benefit as long as your absence is continuous and you do not return to Canada at all for at least one year.
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  • Persons who study or work abroad for periods of less than one year are not eligible at the time of their final return to resume residence in Canada. These people can not aggregate their time away.
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  • Goods imported by a Returning Resident can not be sold or otherwise disposed of for twelve months after import.
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  • Personal and household goods can include mobile trailers up to 9 feet in width, motor homes, tool sheds or garages that do not attach to or form part of a building.
     
  • Commercial vehicles that have been and will continue to be used solely for personal transportation.
Personal Exemptions For Travelers Entering Canada

Goods Not Admissible

The following are examples of goods not admissible;

     
  • Goods for the accommodation of others
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  • Goods for sale or hire or for use in a business
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  • Livestock
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  • Machinery or equipment for use on a farm
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  • Houses and buildings used as dwellings or residences
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  • Company owned or leased vehicles
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  • Goods that are shipped to Canada while the owner continues to live abroad

Goods that exceed the value of $10,000.00 Canada will be assessed and the owner will be responsible for duty and tax on the portion above $10,000.00. This includes vehicles.

How To Import A Vehicle Into Canada

It is important to list all the goods returning with person and list all the goods "to follow". Both lists must be presented at the time the person returns to take up residency in Canada.

Ensure you are clear on what you can and can not bring back to Canada. Case in point is an Appeal decision. Briefly the case is as follows:Ms. G. Theriault appealed a decision with CBSA in March 2013 when CBSA would not allow her to return to Canada with her 2003 BMW Vehicle Model 325i. (Appeal No. AP - 2012-2013). Ms Theriault normally resided in Nova Scotia and in January of 2010 she started to study in the U.S. in Louisiana. After arriving in Louisiana she purchased a vehicle. Ms. Theriault returned to Canada to work during the summer of 2010 and 2011. During these times she left the vehicle in Louisiana. In the fall of 2011 Ms. Theriault decided to import her vehicle into Canada and CBSA charged her duty and tax of $608.93. In December of 2011 Ms. Theriault requested an informal adjustment to her charge stating she should be allowed to import it duty and tax free as a returning resident and she had requested clarification from CBSA via a telephone call and was told the vehicle would qualify for duty and tax free import. The Tribunal upheld the CBSA decision on the basis that Ms Theriault broke her absence by returning to Canada as a resident for the summers of 2010 and 2011. The Tribunal also ruled it can only determine the assessment based on the Tariff and not what a possible conversation may have been with an Officer on the phone. There are no exceptions to the Tariff classification based on advice given over the phone. This case demonstrated how it is important to clearly state your situation when seeking advice on what can be imported under which Tariff.

Pacific Customs Brokers can assist with all your questions regarding Tariff classification on goods returning with Former Residents.

HS Tariff Classification Learn More
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About Author
Jan Brock

Jan Brock joined Pacific Customs Brokers in 2015 as a Senior Trade Advisor. She retired from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in 2015 after serving more than 37 years. Jan started her career with CBSA as a summer student in 1976 and worked part-time until she graduated from U.B.C. with a Bachelor of Education Degree in 1980 . Shortly after graduating from U.B.C. Jan worked full time as an inspector with CBSA and within three years was promoted to Superintendent. She served some time in the Regional Operations office as an Operations Review Officer before she was promoted to Chief of Operations first at the Customs Mail Centre, then in the Metro District as the Commercial Chief and ending her career as a Chief at Pacific Highway Commercial Operations where she served as Chief from 1992 to 2015. During her career she was a member of the Customs Drug Team and a trainer in the National Enforcement Program. Jan also served as the Regional Coordinator Officer Powers and Use of Force for the Pacific Region. Jan served on many Commercial Program Reviews and committees both national and regional during her career and possesses an expansive knowledge of importing and exporting into and from Canada.

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While we strive for accuracy in all our communications, as the Importer of Record it is incumbent upon your company to ensure that you are aware of the requirements under the new regulations so that you maintain compliance as always.