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Documentary Requirements

Customs documents are the set of documents required by a customs authority to accurately and completely identify goods which are being imported. Every country has its own specific rules and regulations governing information and documentary requirements.

If you are importing goods into Canada, the documentation set out below must accompany each shipment.

Exports valued at Cdn $1,600 or more

If the value of goods you are exporting is Cdn $1,600 or more, the following documentation is required for the goods to enter Canada:
- bill of lading
- manifest or cargo control document
- Canada Customs Invoice or commercial invoice
- import permits, as required
- any other documents that may be necessary to meet the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) requirements, e.g. NAFTA Certificate of Origin, or those of other government departments.

Exports valued at less than Cdn $1,600

If the value of goods you are exporting is less than Cdn $1,600, the following documentation is required for the goods to enter Canada:
- bill of lading
- manifest or cargo control document
- commercial invoice
- import permits, as required
- any other documents that may be necessary to meet the CBSA requirements, e.g. NAFTA Certificate of Origin, or those of other government departments.

Other documents

- packing list
- shipper's export declaration

Bill of lading

The bill of lading is a document, issued to a shipper/exporter by a carrier, that describes the goods to be shipped, acknowledges their receipt and states the terms of the contract for their carriage. The shipper is responsible for completing the bill of lading and providing the completed document to the carrier at the time the shipment is sent.

The carrier provides a copy of the bill of lading to the exporter before departure, as evidence of the transfer of goods from the exporter to the carrier. A copy of the bill of lading is also forwarded to the importer, to arrange for the pick-up of the goods, and a third copy is kept for the carrier’s records.

Original bill of lading
- The original bill of lading always stipulates the contract of carriage.
- Possession of the original bill of lading at destination entitles the bearer to the goods.
- The original bill of lading is sometimes sent to a financial institution that represents the shipper. The financial institution remits the original bill of lading to the importer once all financing and other obligations are met.


A manifest is an itemized list of the contents of the shipment, to be shown to officials for customs clearance. Another name for the manifest is cargo control document (CCD). The most commonly used manifest is a Form A8A.

The carrier prepares the manifest based on the information provided by the shipper. The carrier must provide the customs broker with a manifest in order for the broker to obtain a release from Customs.

A manifest or CCD has its own identifier, called the cargo control number. Once submitted and accepted by Customs, the manifest and cargo control number are monitored by Customs to ensure the proper clearance and closure of the shipment.

Packing list

The packing list is the detailed list of contents of the shipment, including quantities, items, model numbers, dimensions and net and gross weights. A packing list should specify per carton or crate the number and type of units of material inside. The shipper gets the packing list ready at the time the goods are being is prepared for shipping. There is no standard format for packing lists.

Although it is not a required customs document, the packing list is often used by the customs broker to obtain additional information about the shipment.

Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice is the basic document from which the buyer or importer pays the vendor or exporter.

On import shipments, the commercial invoice generally serves a dual purpose: to enable the exporter to collect his/her money and to assist the importer in clearing the goods through Customs.

The commercial invoice does not need to conform to a rigid format. The exporter or manufacturer is free to set out the information in any manner they choose, provided that the prescribed data elements found on the Canada Customs Invoice (CCI) are included. Specifically, the following information must be included and be clear, accurate and precise:
- exporter name and address
- consignee name and address
- description of the goods
- net and gross weights
- unit price
- extended price
- currency of settlement
- terms of delivery and terms of payment
- date
- reference numbers
- import licenses
- freight included or excluded

A commercial invoice is sufficient documentation for the clearance of goods valued at less than Cdn $1,600.

Canada Customs Invoice (CCI)

Sample Canada Customs Invoice and Completion Instructions

The CBSA requires the vendor of the goods to prepare a Canada Customs Invoice (CCI) for all shipments entering Canada. The CCI is important for the determination of the classification of the goods, the value for duty, tax and duty rate, and tariff treatment.

A commercial invoice can be used to clear Customs provided that all of the required information contained in the CCI is captured and provided to the CBSA. This can eliminate duplication in processing paperwork.

If taking advantage of the release on minimum documentation (RMD) privilege, the CCI or the commercial invoice, whichever is used, must include:
- importer name and business number
- exporter name
- unit of measure and quantity of goods
- estimated value of the goods in Canada
- detailed description of the goods
- country of origin of the goods
- bar-coded transaction number affixed to the invoice by Livingston.

NAFTA Certificate of Origin

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a preferential tariff program, which allows zero or decreased duties for products that qualify under the provisions of the agreement. Not all goods crossing the U.S.-Canada border qualify for NAFTA treatment.

In order for an importer to take advantage of NAFTA, the U.S. manufacturer or vendor must supply the importer with a current, valid NAFTA Certificate of Origin for all products that qualify for preferential tariff treatment under the agreement. The manufacturer or vendor must also supply the importer with an updated copy of this certificate upon renewal every 12 months or sooner, depending on the degree of changes to the product’s manufacturing or sourcing processes.

Qualification under NAFTA
Qualification of products under NAFTA requires a thorough determination process administered by someone within the manufacturer or vendor’s firm, who is familiar with the agreement and its principles. Product knowledge, including components, origin of components and the manufacturing process, is also required for analysis of NAFTA qualification. There are some general considerations when reviewing a product’s eligibility for NAFTA.

Goods will generally qualify for NAFTA when any or all of the following are true:
- the good is wholly produced or obtained in the territory
- the good meets the requirements of a specific rule of origin for the product
- the good is made up entirely of components and materials that qualify as originating goods
- the good qualifies under NAFTA article 401(d)
- the good is automatic data processing equipment or parts that qualify under the provisions of Annex 308.1 of the agreement.

For customized assistance in accurately determining the free trade status of products, contact the Livingston International Consulting Group.

Documentation required by other government departments

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) assists other government departments (OGDs) in the administration of their legislation as it relates to the importation, in-transit movement and exportation of various commodities, through the management of over 30 different OGD government acts.

Import permits and special certificates
Many goods subject to other government department requirements need special permits, certificates or other paperwork, in addition to the standard customs documentation. In some cases, shipments may require examination by customs officers to verify marking or proper labeling. In others, qualified inspectors, working on behalf of the OGD in question, must review the documentation and/or examine the goods prior to release.

Often the data needed to satisfy OGD requirements is not normally provided with the shipment. It must then be supplied by the importer to the customs broker at the time of customs entry.

OGDs are becoming more stringent with regard to imports. What’s more, new, additional OGD requirements are being implemented all the time. It is crucial that your customs broker be aware of these regulations to ensure correct processing and compliance of your shipments subject to OGD requirements.

Livingston will prepare all appropriate certificates and/or import permits on a fee-per-permit basis and present these to the OGDs and Customs, in order to secure the release of the shipment. In some cases, more than one certificate must be completed for a single entry.

Key OGDs

- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada– food and food-related products
- Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade – apparel goods, textile articles and steel products
- Environment Canada – animals, plants and certain wood products
- Natural Resources Canada – energy-using products
- Industry Canada – pre-packaged consumer products
- Transport Canada – motor vehicles and tires
- Health Canada – drugs and medical devices and hazardous products

Shipper’s Export Declaration

A Shipper’s Export Declaration is required if the goods are being exported from the U.S. and are controlled exports. In order to determine if the goods being exported are controlled, you must refer to the Commerce Control List. This list and all regulations applying to the declaration can be found by contacting the Bureau of Export Administration under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

ACI - Documentation - Container INFO - Glossary