What Is The Single Window Initiative?

What Is The Single Window Initiative?

How SWI Will Affect Importers Into Canada

In March 2017 the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) implemented the Single Window Initiative (SWI). If your business imports goods into Canada regulated by particular Other Government Departments (OGDs), the amount of information you are accustomed to reporting to Customs via a declaration may increase.

What do we mean by this? The first step in understanding the effect SWI will have on your company is understanding what is SWI.

Deadline of Single Window Initiative Extended by CBSA

What Is The Single Window Initiative?

The Single Window Initiative is a single point for advance reporting of import information to CBSA. The key phrases here are "single point" and "advanced" which speaks to the method and timing of reporting:

  • Method: "Single point" means that Customs AND all OGDs collect the required import information in a single declaration (i.e., single window).
  • Timing: The "advanced reporting" side of the equation means information previously provided to OGDs after (in some cases) the goods are imported into Canada will now be required before the carrier's arrival at the border.

The purpose of SWI is to provide the trade community with the ability to electronically submit all information required to comply with government import regulations at once. The purpose of this is:

  • Eliminate duplicate and redundant data requirements and processes
  • Reduce the paper burden on the business community and government
  • Align to the greatest extent possible with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (U.S. CBP)  and the World Customs Organization (WCO)  data model

It is a direct response to calls from the business community to simplify the process at the border and integrate government requirements into one process.

Understanding why the Single Window Initiative is necessary is easily explained with the importance of having OGD's involved in the import process.

Single Window Initiative Requires Additional Data For Your IID

What Role Does An OGD Play In Importing Goods?

It is a common misnomer that CBSA is the only party that plays a role in allowing imports into Canada. In fact, many Other Government Departments protect the safety, economy, and environment of Canadians, who also have a say whether goods can be imported or not.

For example, reducing the risk of introducing an invasive species is helped by the reporting regulations and inspection procedures of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The CFIA impedes the light brown apple moth, which could hide in many imported fruits and vegetables, from taking up residence in Canada. It has no natural predators in Canada and is very difficult to eradicate. The negative impact that it would have to many of Canada's economically important exports is considered to be significant.

In addition to the CFIA, there are many OGDs. The agencies expected to participate in SWI, will be called Participating Government Agencies, and they are as follows:

  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
  • Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Global Affairs Canada
  • Health Canada
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Transport Canada

As proven in the CFIA example above, certain imports require another level of scrutiny and therefore reporting. SWI will improve this reporting process.

Commodity Guide Download

Reporting Process Before SWI

Before the implementation of the Single Window Initiative, declarations prepared by your company, or by a customs broker on your business's behalf, contain information such as:

  • Vendor
  • Importer
  • Commodities
  • Country of Manufacture
  • Quantity and weight
  • Value
  • Condition of sale
  • Currency of settlement
  • Reference number
Download The Document Requirements For Canadian Imports Guide

CBSA shares the information they receive on the import with regulating OGD's. However, not all information required by the OGD is listed in the declaration. If the OGD needed further details on the import, in most cases, they would contact the importer of record directly.

To make a border related decision before import, shipment information required by the Other Government Department such as licenses, permits, and certificates would need to be validated. Enter the SWI and the Integrated Import Declaration.

Reporting Process With SWI

Although technically there is no additional information needed by the Participating Government Agency, it will feel like you need to provide far more detail than ever before. This is because CBSA will require this information to be reported on an Integrated Import Declaration (IID) at the time of import.

What Is The Integrated Import Declaration?

Since the SWI is a single window in which to collect information on the import for both CBSA and PGA's, you will need to provide all the information required by those parties, in a single report. That report will be a new robust Customs declaration called the Integrated Customs Declaration (IID). The Integrated Import Declaration has many more data fields than the current declaration. These additional fields capture information on the imported goods that the regulating PGA needs to know.

In April of 2018, the option to report goods regulated by Other Government Departments via the release service options 463 (OGD PARS) and 471 (OGD RMD) will be decommissioned and replaced with an Integrated Import Declaration (IID).

IID Reporting Direct To Customs

If you submit your declarations to CBSA directly through EDI, you will need to include all information required by the PGA, for certain commodities, in addition to the current reporting requirements for CBSA.

IID Reporting Via A Customs Broker

As mentioned previously, although technically there is no additional information needed by the Participating Government Agency, it will feel like you need to provide far more detail than ever before because of the requirements to report on an IID at the time of import.

As a result, if you are using a customs broker, you will need to provide more information to them than you ever have had to previously since the IID needs to include all information required by the regulating PGA, if applicable.

PGA Release Changes

After submitting the new and robust Integrated Import Declaration, CBSA will transmit that information to the appropriate department or agency responsible for regulating the goods if applicable. In some cases, the sharing of this information will happen before release and in others, after release.

If your PGA receives the information before release, it will assess the information provided and submit a border related decision to CBSA as required. Only when this PGA has deemed the goods eligible for import, will they be released in Canada.

To simplify, if your products are regulated by any PGA's, CBSA will review the data provided in the IID in the following steps:

  1. Identify the regulating PGA for the commodity as reported in the IID
  2. Validate the IID data fields against the mandatory, conditional or optional data of that regulating PGA
  3. Trigger the sharing of data with the applicable PGA
  4. A release decision is made and shared with the carrier

Your Next Steps

You are experienced with the information requirements of Participating Government Agencies on all of your imports which is a great asset during this change. Ensure that you share your PGA regulated goods data elements with your customs broker before implementation.

If you are a client of Pacific Customs Brokers, we will be contacting you in the coming months with the specific additional data requirements we need to clear your imports with the IID.

Many Importers who report to CBSA directly through Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) are preparing with certification and testing by signing up with CBSA and their Technical Commercial Client Unit.


For more information on the SWI clients can contact the Single Window Initiative Team at swi-igu@cbsa-asfc.gc.ca

See CBSA Customs Notice 16-22 for an update on what programs within the PGAs are available with SWI and IID.

We will continue to provide updates and clarification on this new modernization initiative in coming updates.

PCB Learning Center Learn More
{This post was updated September 8, 2017}
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.
Share this post
About the Author
Jan Brock

Jan Brock joined PCB 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.

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.