Shipping to and from Canada: What to expect at the border

Many first time shippers are a little overwhelmed when they have to deal with customs and clearance for the first time. It is a good idea to employ a customs broker right away and they can help alleviate some of the stress of shipping. It really doesn't have to be a source of stress and hopefully we can help make the process smoother for you as well.

The first thing is to find out the value of your shipment if you aren't already aware of that. When importing or exporting there is a process for Low Value shipping that you can follow. If your shipment is worth less than $2500 CAD you will qualify to go this route and not require a broker.

With this, all you need is an invoice with all the pertinent information on it in regards to your load. This includes information on where your items originated from, any serial numbers and a value associated with your full shipment. You will also need a copy of the BOL (bill of lading) for the carrier to produce at customs. If your load is more than $2500 CAD then you will have to clear it with a customs broker. They do not have to be pricey and there are several good brokers you can choose from starting as low as $30 USD. They will help you gather all the paperwork necessary to clear your load at the border.

  • Canada/US Customs Invoice, or a Commercial Invoice also called a PROFORMA
  • BOL (Bill of Lading)
  • Certificate of origin 
  • Shipper’s Export Declaration
Another thing to remember is that the shipping time quoted usually does not include any delays at the border so it is always best to ship a few day early if the shipment is time sensitive. It is better to be early than have a hold up at customs for several days and cause a load to be overly late. We have used some fantastic brokers and I have compiled a list of just a few that we can recommend. Let us quote you on your next shipment and we can certainly steer you in the right direction to make your experience much less complicated and smoother. 

Here's a typical step-by-step after your freight is picked up:

  1. The carrier lets the customs broker know when they are scheduled to arrive in Canada/USA.
  2. The customs broker prepares a customs entry and sends it to the CBSA/CBP.
  3. The driver reports to the CBSA /CBP office, usually a drive-up window at the port of entry.
  4. A CBSA/CBP inspector reviews the information and customs clears the shipment.
  5. The driver proceeds to delivery. For LTL, the driver will take the freight to the destination terminal.
I have included some links below for a few brokers we have used in the past and can recommend. Happy shipping and please contact me below with any questions. 



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