Frequently Asked Questions

The customs process was designed by bureaucrats, not consumers. Which means it’s slow and complicated.
You have questions - so many questions. We have the answers.

Why do I need a customs broker?

Customs brokers help simplify the process of moving products over the border. While you don’t legally need a customs broker, there are many products that are difficult to get over the border without the help of one. By using a customs broker you can get your stuff over the border faster and with less hassle.

What is a customs broker and how can they help me?

A customs broker is a licensed individual or company that works closely with border agents in other countries to make sure that goods being imported or exported have met all requirements. A good customs broker will help you with the paperwork and administration and will be available to answer questions on your behalf

What is customs clearance?

“Customs clearance” or “clearing customs” is a phrase we hear a lot in our business. What it really means is the item that’s being imported or exported has met a country’s requirements for entering or leaving its borders. Those requirements vary from country to country and from one item to another.

We can help you “clear customs” fast, with less paperwork and fewer headaches.

What is a tariff code?

A Harmonized Tariff Code or HS Tariff Code is a list of all the classification codes for goods that are being imported or exported. There are over 17,000 unique classification codes and each country has its own tariff schedule. Here are the tariff schedules for both the USA and Canada.

What are your customs broker fees?

Customs broker fees are the fees you pay someone to help you bring your goods into Canada. These fees are different from duty, which is an amount levied by the federal government and is a percentage of the value of your goods.

To find out more about our fee structure, send us an email, live chat or give us a call and we’ll get back to you shockingly fast.

For self-service, get an instant quote.

What is an HS code? / How do I look up an HS code?

The Harmonized System is an international naming structure for the classification of products. It allows participating countries to classify traded goods on a common basis for customs purposes. At the international level, the Harmonized System (HS) for classifying goods is a six-digit code system.

You can look up an HS code for shipments into Canada on the Canada Border Services Agency’s webpage for Customs Tariff.

For shipments into the United States, you can use this list of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule to look up an HS code.

How do I import or ship a vehicle to Canada / USA?

When it comes to importing a vehicle to or from Canada or the US, we recommend that you start by checking our Learning Center. Here you’ll find up-to-date information and instructions on how to get started and what kind of specifics and paperwork you’ll need. Specifically to import a vehicle into Canada from the U.S., there’s a 6 step process that we outline in this helpful infographic as well as The 5 Things You Need to do to Import a Car from The US to Canada.

How do I ship to Canada/US?

If you’re shipping a car to Canada from the US or shipping a vehicle to the US from Canada, you require specific information about your vehicle and will need to complete a few forms to get started. We have a helpful article on The 5 Things You Need to do to Import a Car from The US to Canada.

For other products, all major small parcel carriers like DHL, FEDEX and UPS will give you international options through their normal shipping label creation process. Alternatively, we can give you a customized recommendation just click on the chat box, email or call us.

How do I recover a seized item in customs?

This will depend on why the item was seized. If it was seized because the item is restricted/inadmissible, customs will either send the product back to the exporter or destroy it. If the item has been stopped by customs and they are waiting on the importer to provide additional information/pay customs duties and taxes on the product, a third party brokerage firm can assist and complete a formal entry with customs to have the goods released.

How do I calculate shipping to US/Canada?

Calculating your shipping costs to or from Canada will depend on what you are shipping. First things first though, do you have a carrier? All major small parcel carriers like DHL, FEDEX and UPS will give you international options through their normal shipping label creation process. You can find the cost of shipping in this process. Alternatively, we can give you a customized shipping recommendation.

How do I avoid customs fees/charges?

Simply put, you can’t. We don’t recommend that you try because you can get into serious trouble with border agents that way. Customs fees and charges are levied against virtually every item that comes into or goes out of a country. It’s just a matter of how much you have to pay based on your item.

What is the difference between a registered importer and a customs broker?

A customs broker assists with the customs clearance of vehicles into the United States that already meet US regulations for EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and DOT (Department of Transportation). A Registered Importer assists with bringing the vehicle up to US regulations in order for the vehicle to be admissible into the United States. Once the vehicle meets US regulations, a broker can assist with the import.

Why should I pay a broker for something I can do myself?

There are many products that are difficult to get over the border without the help of a broker. The idea, much like hiring an agent or manager to represent you, is that our expertise adds value. Since time is money and money is what you need to keep your lights on and grow profits, you now get to spend time running your business and let our agents’ expertise smooth the way with customs, get the job done right and get it done quickly.

There are a lot of brokers out there. Why should I trust you?

With 35 years of experience and a 99.3% customer satisfaction rate, we are your secret weapon for quick, hassle-free importing and exporting.

Are there hidden fees you’re going to hit me with in the end?

No. We are upfront with our quotes and we will not hit you with tacked-on fees at the end.

What is GST (Goods and Services Tax)?

GST is a fixed federal tax of 5% which applies to the supply of almost all goods and services in Canada. This 5% tax is payable at the border on commercial and personal imports. GST is the only tax charged to residents of Alberta, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon Territories but is built into the HST for other provinces (see “What is HST?” below).

What is PST (Provincial Sales Tax)?

PST is a tax collected at the provincial level that varies in rate by province. Only four provinces currently collect this tax: Manitoba, British Columbia, Quebec and Saskatchewan collect PST (in addition to GST). This means that consumer purchases from residents in these provinces will be charged GST and PST. PST is not payable at the border for commercial imports to Canada.

What is HST (Harmonized Sales Tax)?

Essentially, HST is the 5% GST combined with PST to form one harmonized tax. This is collected in the provinces of Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador and the rates vary by province.

If I use a warehouse in Canada will I be charged the GST/HST?

Yes, as this is a taxable service in Canada.

What if I use your services and I still have issues with customs either delaying or confiscating my goods?

The customs broker, not unlike your tax preparer, is using the information you give him or her. Ultimately, you, (the importer/exporter) are responsible for accurate information, with proper duties and taxes accounted for. We will help educate you and expedite the process, but you must be sure to provide legal and accurate information.

What if your broker makes a mistake?

If our broker makes a mistake, we pay the penalty on your behalf.

What is an NRI (Non Resident Importer)?

A non-resident importer (NRI) is a company not located in Canada that imports into Canada from the United States and clears the goods into Canada under its own company name. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) developed the nonresident importer concept specifically to help U.S. exporters gain access to Canadian markets. In essence, a non-resident importer is both the exporter from the United States and the importer of record into Canada. You become the importer of record even though you are not physically located in Canada. At BorderBuddy we guarantee that becoming a NRI is just like doing business without borders.

What’s going on with NAFTA? What does it mean for importers?

Canada and the US have a free trade agreement in place. But yes, there is a great deal of speculation about NAFTA and what it means for importing and exporting to Canada. We suspect a trend toward an increase of tariffs being added. For the latest information on how this impacts your business see this article on how the new NAFTA is good for Canada.

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Jay Mohl, Sales & Marketing, Parksville Boathouse Parksville B.C.

Amanda Burr at BorderBuddy made our shipment seamless and her customer service was outstanding. Without question, we will work with Amanda and BorderBuddy again in the future. Thanks Amanda!

Don Mariutto

“I used BorderBuddy when were in a jam with a small tile shipment to Canada — just called them randomly after a Google search. Blair handled our case, and was in constant communication with updates, and got our shipment released within 24 hours, even though we were starting the process from scratch. Based on this experience, I can’t recommend Blair and the BorderBuddy team highly enough. Even though this was just a small shipment, they handled it like it was the most important on their agenda. We will definitely work with them again in the future – hopefully though, not on an emergency basis! THANK YOU!!”

Nathan Bird

company is always so very helpful in getting things across the border without any headaches. Tara was our agent this time around and she was prompt in answering any questions, super polite over the phone and coordinated everything for us. Highly recommend using their services.