Entering Canada

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By air

Whether you’re returning home or visiting, you’ll follow the same 3 steps to enter Canada:

Step 1. Pre-arrival: Use Advance Declaration or complete a Declaration Card

If you’re arriving by air at one of Canada’s participating international airports, you can save time at the border. Submit your customs and immigration declaration online using Advance Declaration up to 72 hours before you arrive in Canada.

If you choose not to submit your declaration in advance, you can complete it at an airport kiosk or eGate. If you’re landing at an airport without kiosks or eGates, you’ll receive a Declaration Card on board the aircraft or other conveyance. Read the instructions and complete the card before you arrive. Have it ready to present to Canadian officials at the airport, along with your identification and other travel documents. If you're travelling with children, please have their documentation ready as well.

If using a Declaration Card, detach and discard the instructions. To help us serve you faster, do not fold the card.

Everyone arriving in Canada must complete a declaration. You can list up to 4 people living at the same residence on one card, or 8 people per Advance Declaration submission.

The Declaration Card or Advance Declaration submission tells us what we need to know about you, your travels and what you’re bringing into the country.

Connecting to another flight

If you’re connecting to another flight or travelling on to another destination and re-boarding the same plane, follow the signs. At some airports, you may have to check your baggage and have it screened again.

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 or eGates for faster processing.

Step 2. Arrival: First CBSA checkpoint

When you arrive at the terminal, follow the signs to the first Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) checkpoint, also called “primary inspection.”

If you used Advance Declaration, go to a kiosk or eGate to retrieve your confirmed declaration receipt. Up to 5 people may use a kiosk as a group upon arrival.

Next, a border services officer will examine your:

The officer may ask you a series of questions to determine:

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

Newcomer or coming to Canada to study or work

If you’re a newcomer to Canada, coming to study or work in Canada, you may need to present further documentation. The officer will help guide you through this process. You may ask the officer for help if you don’t speak English or French well.

Step 3. Baggage and second CBSA checkpoint

Go to the baggage claim area. If you must pay duty and taxes, you can pay at most major airports while waiting for your luggage.

Once you’ve picked up your luggage:

The officer may direct you to a secondary inspection area.

Here, officers may ask you:

This is a normal part of the travelling process. Your cooperation is appreciated and helps us ensure the safety of Canada, its economy and its residents.

By land

If you’re arriving by land, follow the signs to the first checkpoint, also called “primary inspection.” Here, a border services officer will examine your identification and other travel documents and take your verbal declaration.

Visit U.S. to Canada border wait times for estimated wait times at certain locations.

By private boat

If you’re arriving by private boat, go directly to a designated marine telephone reporting site and call the CBSA Telephone Reporting Centre (TRC) at 1-888-226-7277 to obtain clearance.

Private boaters that meet certain conditions may report to the CBSA by calling the TRC using cell phone from their location in Canadian waters.

Learn more about reporting requirements for private boaters.

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. Canada has introduced a new entry requirement, known as an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), for certain international travellers who fly to Canada.

Read about the changes and how they may affect you.

The Government of Canada recommends that Canadian citizens travel with a valid Canadian passport because it’s 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:

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 bring copies of the legal custody documents to the border when travelling with their children.

A consent letter should be used for all cross-border travel when a child is travelling:

Example of a consent letter to permit travel by a child with a single custodian or parent.

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

Adults who aren’t 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.

Border 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’re 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’s a good idea to keep all your receipts for accommodation 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’re 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 (for example, impaired driving, outstanding arrest warrants, stolen property, abductions/kidnappings) and for infractions under other acts of Parliament (for example, the Customs Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act).

If you’re 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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