Help! My Shipment Is Stuck At The Border

Many times, Customs Brokers receive phone calls from importers, shippers, dispatchers and carriers trying to find out why their shipment is “stuck at the border”. Lucky for them, Pacific Customs Brokers is open 24/7, with live reception and no voice mail. Sometimes it is a very simple answer and other incidence's are more complex.

Common Reasons Why A Shipment Is Stuck At The Border

1. Customs Broker Not Identified

Documents make no mention of who the Customs Broker is to assist with the clearance.

For Customs clearance contact Pacific Customs Brokers 1.888.538.1566

2. Who Is The Importer Of Record?

‍Documents are hard to decipher who the actual Importer of Record (IOR) is. The IOR can be;

  • The receiver of the goods - called the “consignee”
  • The shipper (acting as a Non-Resident Importer (NRI) and already set up with a Canadian customs broker)
  • A third party having their shipments drop shipped from another location and in most cases will also be acting as a Non-Resident Importer
Non-Resident Importer Guide

3. Consignee Needs A Customs Broker

Neither the shipper or the consignee have not set up anything formally with a Canadian Customs Broker to effect Customs clearance.

How To Import Into Canada

4. Missing Paperwork

The driver/freight company picking up freight only has a Bill of Lading (BOL) and is not given any other documents such as a commercial invoice or Canada Customs invoice.

Why Is A Bill of Lading Important?

5. Not Enough Information

Documents/commercial invoice does not have enough information to be able to prepare the entry for presentation and clearance with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Some of the information that can hold this up is:

  • Not enough information to classify the goods (Tariff Classification)
  • Total value or individual values are missing
  • Country of manufacture is missing
  • Total number of pieces is missing
  • Weight is missing
  • Commercial invoice document only shows product numbers or abbreviated number & item name (no general description of what the goods are). See below for examples.

For Example

1956842ftp clr scn/cpy/prnt (is not an acceptable description)

1956842ftp — Scanner/copier/printer unit (an acceptable description)

6. Missing A Document

The document is not the correct document to obtain a Customs clearance (i.e. purchase order or pick ticket)

7. The Commodity Itself

A few more reasons freight crossing the border is often delayed may be due to the actual commodity being shipped. Perhaps there are Participating Government Agencies (PGA) involved in approving the goods for Customs clearance, such as items that are under control of Canadian Food Inspections Agency (CFIA). They require CFIA approval and some commodities are under quota and require an Import Permit. Perhaps the goods are listed on the Import Control List and require an Import Permit, such as some steel items. Meat shipments and those requirements are also extensive. 

It is always a good idea to check with a Customs Broker for any special requirements or extra documentation and/or extra steps that may need to be taken to properly clear the goods across the border prior to ordering or shipping. When in doubt, be sure to contact your Customs Broker. They will properly advise on what you need to do and what they need in order for your shipment(s) to avoid delays and have a seamless Customs clearance process.

Before You Buy From A Foreign Supplier - Check With A Customs Broker
Participating Government Agency Guide
Customs Broker Quote
Disclaimer: While reading, kindly note the date of this blog. At PCB we do our due diligence to write on the most relevant topic every week and naturally content may become dated as developments in a certain program/topic occur. For this reason, we greatly appreciate your readership and hope you continue reading with the posting date in mind. For the latest information on this topic please use our website's search function, or better yet, subscribe to our "Trading Post" newsletter to receive these updates directly to your inbox.
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About Author
Cherie Storms
CCS (CA & US), CTCS, CBSA Prof. Designate

Cherie Storms is the Canadian Operations Manager with PCB Customs Brokers, with over 18 years in international trade operations and regulatory experience. Since joining the company in 2007, she has become an Executive Board Member for the Canadian Customs Brokers Society, BC Region, and spoke at the Women in Transportation Annual General Meeting in 2010 regarding her experience running international logistics for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Cherie is a member of CSCB's National Commercial Operations and eManifest Committee and sits on the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers' Board of Directors. In 2020, Cherie received the Emerging Leader award in the annual Surrey Board of Trade, Surrey Women in Business Awards. In her off time, Cherie is a motorsports driver for the Shift Up Now racing team, SCCA and CACC Women on Track Leader, racing tracks in Daytona and Indianapolis. With multiple championships, Cherie is a leader in the Jr Ambassador Program, encouraging young girls to excel in motorsports. Cherie has spoken at many seminars on the importance of trade compliance. She is currently enrolled in the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Business Management Program to become an international trade lawyer.

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.