Entering Canada

By air

Whether you are returning home or visiting, you will follow the same straightforward process to enter Canada. There are three simple steps to follow:

Step 1.  Pre-arrival: Complete a Declaration Card

You will receive a Declaration Card while you are on board the aircraft or other conveyance and must complete it before you arrive.

The Declaration Card tells us what we need to know about you, your travels and what you are bringing into the country. Instructions on how to complete the card are attached to help you.

Please note that everyone arriving in Canada must complete a Declaration Card. You can list up to four people living at the same residence on one card.

Once the Declaration Card is completed, detach and discard the instructions. Please do not fold the card, as this allows us to serve you faster.

Be sure to keep the Declaration Card handy along with your identification and other travel documents. You will be asked to show this card several times after you get off the plane.

If you're travelling with children, please have their documentation ready as well.

Connecting to another flight

If you are connecting to another flight OR travelling on to another destination, follow the signs. Depending on the procedures followed at the airport at which you arrive, your path may vary and you may have to have your baggage checked and screened before you re-board.

Step 2. Arrival: First CBSA checkpoint

When you arrive at the terminal, follow the signs to the first Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) checkpoint—referred to as Primary Inspection—where a border services officer will examine your Declaration Card, identification and other travel documents.

When you are directed to a booth, you may be asked a series of questions to determine your immigration status, the nature of any goods you are bringing with you, your duty-free allowance and personal exemption entitlements.

If you have anything to declare, including purchases and food, plants, animals and/or related products of any kind, make sure to inform the officer.

Goods not properly declared that are restricted or prohibited in Canada can, under the law, be subject to seizure.

Newcomer or coming to Canada to study or work

If you are a newcomer to Canada, coming to study or work in Canada, further documentation may be required. The officer will help guide you through this process and can assist with language services if required.

If you travel frequently our trusted traveller programs can help

If you're a member of a trusted traveller program, you can skip Step 2 and go directly to the automated kiosks for faster processing.

Step 3. Baggage and second CBSA checkpoint

Now that you have cleared Primary Inspection, proceed to the baggage claim area. If required, you can pay duty and taxes at most major airports while waiting for your luggage.

Once you have picked up your luggage, proceed to the next CBSA checkpoint, where you will show the officer your Declaration Card and your receipt if you paid duty and taxes.

The officer may direct you to our secondary inspection area. You can expect to be asked for detailed information about your travels and may be asked to present your luggage and goods for examination.

This is a normal part of the travel process. Your cooperation is appreciated and helps us ensure the safety of Canada, its economy and its residents by verifying your declaration.

If you have any questions, you can ask to speak with a CBSA Superintendent at any time. 

By land

If you are arriving by land, follow the signs to the first checkpoint—referred to as Primary Inspection—where a border services officer will examine your identification and other travel documents and take your verbal declaration. Visit Canada to U.S. Border Wait Times to access the estimated wait times for crossing the Canada-United States land border at certain locations.

By private boat

If you are arriving by private boat, proceed directly to a designated marine telephone reporting site and call the CBSA Telephone Reporting Centre (TRC) at 1-888-226-7277 to obtain CBSA clearance. Certain private boaters may now present themselves to the CBSA by calling the TRC from their cellular telephones from the location at which they enter Canadian waters.

Required identification

Make sure you carry proper identification for yourself and any children travelling with you to help confirm your legal right to enter Canada.

The Government of Canada recommends that Canadian citizens travel with a valid Canadian passport because it is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians for the purpose of international travel.

International transportation companies such as airlines may require travellers to present a passport before boarding. Canadian citizens may face delays or may not be allowed to board the plane or other conveyance if they present other documents such as a:

  • Enhanced Driver's License (EDL)/Enhanced Identification Card (EIC)
  • NEXUS card (used where the program is available)
  • Free and Secure Trade (FAST) card used in FAST lanes
  • Canadian citizenship card
  • Certificate of Indian Status
  • Birth certificate in combination with either a driver's licence or a government-issued photo identification

Permanent residents

Permanent residents (immigrants living in Canada who are not yet Canadian citizens) need a valid permanent resident card to return to Canada. Check the expiry date on your card.

Note that a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship is not a travel document. See Canadian Citizenship for further details.

Travelling with children

Parents who share custody of their children should carry copies of the legal custody documents. It is also recommended that they have a consent letter from the other custodial parent to take the child on a trip out of the country. The parents' full name, address and telephone number should be included in the consent letter.

When travelling with a group of vehicles, parents or guardians should arrive at the border in the same vehicle as the children.

Adults who are not parents or guardians should have written permission from the parents or guardians to supervise the children. The consent letter should include addresses and telephone numbers where the parents or guardian can be reached.

CBSA officers watch for missing children, and may ask detailed questions about the children who are travelling with you.

You and the border services officer

You may occasionally find yourself going through a more detailed inspection. In some cases, this simply means that you may have to complete a form. In other cases, the border services officer will need to identify the goods you are bringing into the country or examine your luggage.

Border services officers are legally entitled to examine your luggage as part of their responsibility to protect Canada's safety, economy and environment. You are responsible for opening, unpacking and repacking your luggage.

By making your goods easily accessible for inspection and having your receipts handy, you will be helping the CBSA to help you. It is a good idea to keep all your receipts for accommodations and purchases, and for any repairs done to, or parts bought for, your vehicle. The border services officer may ask to see them as evidence of the length of your stay and of the value of the goods or repairs.

If you disagree with the amount of duty and taxes that you have to pay, please ask to speak with the CBSA superintendent on duty. A consultation can often resolve the issue quickly and without cost. If you are still not satisfied, our officers can tell you how to make a formal appeal.

Border services officers may arrest an individual for an offence under the Criminal Code (e.g., impaired driving, outstanding arrest warrants, stolen property, abductions/kidnappings) and for infractions under other acts of Parliament (e.g. the Customs Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act). If you are arrested, you may be compelled to attend court in Canada. You should note that anyone arrested in Canada is protected by, and will be treated in accordance with, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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