Briefed on Canada Customs



COPA Flight 8's October 24th meeting was held at West Capital Development's hangar classroom at Carp Airport, just west of Ottawa. The meeting featured Debbie McGuire from Client Services, St Lawrence Region, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The WCD classroom was filled with Flight 8 members there to learn more about Customs procedures.

McGuire has recently been visiting COPA Flights in the St Laurence basin and talking about how the agency's programs work, including how to clear customs when entering Canada.

She started the briefing by emphasizing that all pilots flying private light aircraft into Canada with fewer than 15 passengers must report by telephone for permission to enter Canada.

Unless everyone on board holds a CANPASS membership, regular customs procedures apply. The pilot-in-command of the aircraft shall call 1-888-226-7277 (1-888-CANPASS) between 2-48 hours in advance of the intended landing time. The pilot will need to provide information on the aircraft's registration, estimated time of arrival, airport of arrival, which must be an official Airport of Entry (AOE), passenger and crew information, including names, dates of birth, citizenship, residency, length of absence and for any non-Canadian residents – purpose of the trip. McGuire emphasized that if for some reason that you can't get through on the toll-free line then you can call the regional offices directly, but you must report by phone before departing for Canada. Any duties or taxes owed on purchases made can be paid over the phone via credit card in advance of departure, as customs officers who meet the plane may not be able to take payment on the spot after landing.

After landing at an AOE during Customs hours, non-CANPASS holder aircraft must make a second phone call to CBSA and wait in the aircraft. The pilot can leave the aircraft to make the call, if necessary. CBSA will give instructions as needed.

McGuire explained that under exceptional circumstances, such as weather or mechanical problems forcing an aircraft returning to Canada to land short of the AOE at another airport, the pilot must immediately phone CBSA. The aircraft will either be met where it is or a special clearance will be given.

If an aircraft has let CBSA know that it is flying into Canada and then has to land short of the border, still in the country of departure, then a call is required as well, to let CBSA know that the flight has been delayed. Another notification will be required when the flight is to continue to Canada.

CANPASS is a program of CBSA that was started to simplify tourism, trade and travel. It allows travelers to go through an assessment in advance and, if classified as "low risk", they will be issued with a CANPASS membership.

For private aircraft returning to Canada from the USA, where all crew and passengers have a CANPASS membership, streamlined procedures are used. The benefits of CANPASS membership are: the aircraft can land at any AOE, the aircraft can land at any AOE after regular Customs hours or the aircraft can land at any designated CANPASS airport. CANPASS members still make the same phone call to CBSA 2-48 hours in advance of arrival and are then cleared by phone. Any duties or taxes owed on purchases made can be paid over the phone via credit card. The aircraft can proceed to its AOE or CANPASS airport and then if not met by a CBSA agent can proceed on to final destination after the ETA has lapsed.

To participate in CANPASS a crew member or passenger has to apply, pass the background checks and be given a membership card. The basic requirements are: be a citizen or permanent resident of the USA or Canada, meet all immigration requirements, not have a criminal record, not have had any customs seizures.

To apply for CANPASS applicants must complete a form E672 Alternative Customs Presentations Programs. The non-refundable application fee is $40 for five years. There is no fee for applicants under 18 years of age, although parents have to complete the forms. The applicant will have to provide proof of citizenship or residency (copies only should be sent). Once the application has been completed it is submitted to CBSA for background checks and then approval or rejection based on the findings.

McGuire emphasized that for a private aircraft to return to Canada under CANPASS rules then everyone on board must be a CANPASS holder. The Corporate CANPASS Program is a bit different as it allows up to four non-CANPASS holders to enter Canada with the flight. The Corporate CANPASS Program is not open to private citizens, only corporations who also pass CANPASS requirements.

CANPASS is only valid for entry from the USA, so aircraft coming back from Greenland or other points of departure must fly to an AOE, even if all on board are CANPASS holders.

McGuire noted that people returning to Canada under CANPASS cannot bring in certain items, such as commercial samples, goods or equipment and if these are being brought the aircraft must report to a regular AOE during customs hours instead. Importing controlled or restricted substances, restricted firearms and excess amounts of alcohol or tobacco similarly requires reporting to an AOE instead of using CANPASS to enter the country.

McGuire also reviewed the rules for visitors to Canada including limits on gifts that they can bring ($60 value per gift), the personal import limits for tobacco, cigars and alcohol. She reported that the general allowances for Canadians returning to Canada have been increased and are now: $50 for people who have been out of Canada for at least 24 hours, $400 for visits of at least 48 hours and $750 for at least 7 days. These latter two limits include alcohol and tobacco. Details on the limits for imports can be found in the CBSA pamphlet "I Declare – A guide for residents of Canada returning to Canada". Paper copies of the pamphlet were distributed at the meeting and it is also available on the CBSA website.

McGuire also noted that persons entering Canada must report if they are bringing more than $10,000 with them, under the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act.

The subject of traveling with children received special emphasis from McGuire. She explained that CBSA has intercepted over 1400 children since 1986 who were being moved across the border illegally. In most cases they had been kidnapped by a non-custodial parent. She stated that if you are traveling with children and not with the children's other parent then you will need: proper ID for the children, legal documents establishing that you have custody or a notarized letter from the other parent. Children must also travel with the accompanying parent and not in a separate vehicle or aircraft.

McGuire mentioned that with retail prices so high in Canada, despite our very high dollar that many Canadians are buying retail goods and especially cars in the USA. She went over the rules for importing these, including the safety requirements that must be met. Again complete information is on the CBSA and Transport Canada websites.

Finally McGuire reminded people of the basic things to keep in mind when returning to Canada: keep your receipts for purchases and declare all goods purchased.

COPA Flight 8 would like to thank Debbie McGuire for making this helpful and informative presentation to us.

Thanks are also due to John Phillips and WCD for allowing COPA Flight 8 the use of their new classroom at Carp Airport. WCD is in the process of building a residential airpark at Carp, with building slated to start this winter. Complete information is available on the WCD website.


Canada Border Services Agency

West Capital Developments

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