If you import and export a substantial amount of commercial goods between Canada and the US, then you’re familiar with PARS and PAPS numbers. These numbers help facilitate the movement of commercial shipments across the Canadian and US borders. Customs officers can evaluate shipments more quickly and easily, speeding up the process for carriers and importers.
If you’re new to importing and exporting in North America, however, then having to deal with PARS and PAPS numbers may seem challenging. In this ultimate guide, you’ll learn everything a new importer needs to know about PARS and PAPS and what role your customs broker plays in the process.
What are PARS and PAPS numbers?
PARS stands for Pre-arrival Review System and it’s a designation the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) uses to clear commercial goods through customs. It’s a system of bar code labels placed on commercial invoices that CBSA agents scan, to tell whether they need to release goods or send them on for further inspection.
PAPS numbers, or Pre-arrival Processing System, is the US version of PARS. It functions mostly the same way, allowing US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to process goods as they cross the border.
In both Canada and the US, the PARS and PAPS labeling programs work with the ACI or ACE electronic manifest systems. Commercial trucking shipments must go through either the ACI eManifest (Canada) or ACE electronic manifest (US) systems to clear customs. The PARS and PAPS numbers are one part of the electronic manifest process.
What’s the difference between PARS and PAPS numbers?
There aren’t any substantial differences between PARS and PAPS, other than that one is for Canada and the other is for the US. PARS and PAPS are very similar because a lot of commercial shipments pass between the US and Canada on a regular basis. Having similar systems makes importing and exporting between the two countries easier.
Experienced importers and customs brokers will be well aware of the terminology each system uses and how to comply with both PARS and PAPS.
When do you need a PARS or PAPS number?
Any commercial shipments that enter Canada or the US by truck use PARS or PAPS numbers as the default shipping type. The PARS and PAPS processes involve carriers, shippers, and customs brokers to get goods across the border.
The PARS/PAPS process
- A carrier assigns a PARS or PAPS number to a shipment, then sends that number to their customs broker.
- The broker then uses the number to request the release of the shipment from customs.
- The carrier prepares a listing for the shipment using ACI or ACE eManifest, also using the PARS or PAPS number.
- Only when CBSA or CBP accepts both the broker’s entry and the carrier’s eManifest listing can the goods go to the border.
- The customs officer will use the PARS or PAPS number to verify the broker’s request and the carrier’s eManifest listing, and release the goods or refer them for inspection.
Alternatively, the customs broker may also create a listing using the eManifest system. To get a better understanding of the PAPS or PARS process, speak with a customs broker certified in Canada or the US.
What does a PARS or PAPS number look like?
A PARS number is always a series of eight digits or numbers. The first four are a unique Highway Carrier Code each highway carrier must have. The final four numbers are a sequence of cargo control numbers.
A PAPS number starts with a four-character SCAC (Standard Carrier Alpha Code) that each highway carrier must-have. The SCAC is followed by a sequence of shipment control numbers.
Registering for a PARS or PAPS number
In Canada, a highway carrier must be approved to conduct business by one of the provincial transportation authorities before it can get a PARS number. Once the carrier has approval from the province, they can get a bonded or non-bonded Highway Carrier Code from CBSA.
In the US, highway carriers must be authorized to conduct business by either registering with the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) or getting an MC number. After getting federal approval, a carrier can register for a SCAC from the National Motor Freight Traffic Association.
It’s important to note that carriers assign PARS/PAPS numbers, not the importer. Since carriers are responsible for physically moving commercial shipments over the border, they are the ones that need the Highway Carrier Code (Canada) or SCAC (US), which allow for PARS and PAPS tracking.
Can you track a shipment with a PARS number?
When your commercial shipment has a PARS number, you can track its progress as it moves through customs. With BorderBuddy’s PARS tracker, you can easily check the status of your shipment at any time.
If you need assistance getting your import paperwork in order, BorderBuddy is more than happy to help. We know PARS and PAPS numbers inside and out, and will be able to guide you through the customs clearance process. To get started moving your commercial goods across the border, call BorderBuddy today.