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How Long Does Customs Clearance Take? Find The Answer Here!

Published: March 28, 2024
Author: Diana Zheng

Your excitement about getting your orders from the US to Canada often comes with the waiting game that comes along with customs clearance. If you wonder, “How long does customs clearance take?,” understanding the process can help you plan and manage your expectations effectively.

This article will uncover the ins and outs of customs process duration when shipping your most loved items from the US. Leaf through as we delve into the factors affecting the clearance duration, offering you clarity and insight while shipping across the border.

Key Takeaways

  • Customs clearance includes formally processing, verifying, and approving packages that enter Canada’s borders. It involves documentation, taxes and duties assessment, package inspection, and package release that comply with Canada's import/export regulations.
  • Issues in packages may lead to temporary and permanent rejects. In such cases, the best thing to do is to contact the customs office or your customs broker.
  • Ship with a shipping expert who can handle customs clearance on your behalf for a seamless cross-border shipping experience.

How Long Does Customs Clearance Take In Canada?

Except during peak season - when the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) assesses more packages - it only takes around 20 minutes to 24 hours (depending on the circumstances) to clear customs.

Here are the steps involved in the Canadian import clearance process below.


stamping a document

A customs officer will check your customs paperwork. This initial step includes verifying the information provided, confirming compliance with regulations, and ensuring all necessary documents are in order. Your customs documents must contain complete and accurate details, specifically the item details, shipping label, and commercial invoice.

Duty and Tax Assessment

a hand using a calculator with blurred persons

The duty and tax assessment stage in the Canadian customs clearance procedure plays an important role in calculating the costs a customer must pay for shipping goods into Canada. The CBSA evaluates the applicable tariffs, taxes, and customs fees charged on imported products in this phase.

Here’s an overview of this customs clearance step:

  1. Classification of Goods - The first part involves classifying the imported goods under the Harmonized System (HS) code, which determines the appropriate duty rates and taxes. Each item is categorized based on its nature, composition, and intended use.
  1. Duty Calculation - Once classified, the CBSA applies the relevant duty rates to the goods. Duties are often based on a percentage of the item's value and category.
  1. Taxes and Customs Fees - Apart from duties, imported goods may also be subject to various taxes such as Goods and Services Tax (GST), Provincial Sales Tax (PST), or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), depending on the destination province in Canada. Additionally, certain goods might incur excise taxes or specific fees.

Package Review and Inspection

a woman scanning a package

Package review is an important custom clearance step that ensures compliance with regulations and assesses the contents of packages entering Canada.

Advanced scanning technology like X-rays or other specialized equipment might be used to examine packages non-invasively, helping officers assess contents without physically opening them. While this step may sound like an invasion of privacy, it is important to note that inspections are conducted to ensure the customs process's integrity and safeguard against illegal or restricted items entering the country.

Package Release

several shipping boxes

Once all necessary assessments, inspections, and payments of duties and taxes have been successfully completed, the CBSA releases the package for delivery.

Remember that during the package release step, it is important to stay informed about the status of your shipment by tracking it using the provided tracking number or reaching out to your shipping carrier if needed.

What Causes Customs Clearance Process Delays?

What causes customs clearance delays in Canada?

We know how customs delays can be a real hassle. But, if the customs office finds errors or discrepancies in the paperwork or finds questionable items in the package, clearing customs may take longer for some packages.

Temporary Rejections

Temporary rejects in Canadian customs clearance refer to situations where the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) temporarily withholds or delays the clearance of imported goods due to various reasons. These reasons might include:

  • incomplete or inaccurate documentation
  • discrepancies in declared information
  • need for further verification 

Once the necessary adjustments or information are provided to address the concerns raised by the CBSA, the clearance process can proceed, allowing the goods to be released for entry into Canada. If you receive a notification regarding this rejection, it’s best to follow the instructions provided by the CBSA or promptly reach out to your customs broker for assistance.

Permanent Rejections

Permanent rejects in Canadian customs clearance occur when imported goods face a denial of entry into Canada because of certain significant non-compliance issues that cannot be rectified or resolved within the established regulatory framework.

When a shipment faces a permanent rejection, it signifies that the goods cannot proceed further into the country and are deemed ineligible for entry. The CBSA may provide reasons for the rejection, and the goods might be returned to the sender or subject to disposal according to the established customs protocols.

Undervalued Items

Undervalued items in Canadian customs clearance refer to situations where the declared value of imported goods is significantly lower than their actual worth or market value. Undervaluing items can be seen as an attempt to pay lower duties and taxes or evade import restrictions. If caught, the items may not be allowed in, sent back, or there could be fines. It's a big deal in customs because it messes with the rules and how things should work fairly.

Prohibited Goods

Prohibited items in Canadian customs clearance are goods that are not allowed to enter the country due to legal restrictions or safety concerns. These items can include things like weapons, illegal drugs, counterfeit goods, certain types of food, or hazardous materials.

When such items are discovered during the customs clearance process, they are subject to permanent rejection. This means their entry to Canada is denied. Canadian customs strictly enforces these rules to protect the country's safety, health, environment, and economy.

If you encounter this issue, you need to contact customs and provide proper paperwork to clarify misunderstandings or correct errors. Or, seek help from your customs broker to guide you on the appropriate steps or assist in presenting your case to the CBSA.

FAQS About Customs Clearance In Canada

Now, let’s get to learn more about the customs clearance process by knowing the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

1. “Can I Expedite Customs Clearance For Packages From The US?”

Yes, you can expedite customs clearance for packages from the US to Canada through the following:

  • Use expedited shipping services
  • Provide correct and complete package information
  • Work with a licensed and experienced customs broker
  • Ship with a trustworthy and dependable cross-border shipping carrier

2. Do Customs Officers Work On Weekends In Canada?

Customs offices in Canada typically work regular business hours from Monday to Friday. However, customs operations may continue during weekends and holidays to handle increased traffic and ensure the smooth processing of imported shipments.

It's important to note that while the customs office may have reduced staff or limited hours during weekends and holidays, there might still be customs personnel available for essential operations and to handle urgent matters or high-volume periods.

If you have specific concerns or need to inquire about customs clearance during weekends for a particular shipment or situation, it's best to reach out to the CBSA to directly confirm their operating hours and availability on weekends.

3. Does Customs Look Inside Packages?

In some instances, packages undergo physical inspection by customs officers to verify the accuracy of declared information and to detect any prohibited or restricted items.

4. How Do I Know That My Package Is Stuck At Customs?

The customs office will notify you if they find issues with your package. Additionally, if you observe a delay in your shipment’s delivery beyond the expected timeframe, it’s best to check its status using your package’s tracking reference.

Tracking updates may mention phrases like "held by customs" or "in customs clearance," indicating that the package is being processed or inspected by customs authorities, causing a delay in its movement. If you suspect your package is stuck at customs, contacting the shipping carrier or customs office directly for further details or assistance is advisable.

5. What Happens If Customs Seize My Package?

Customs may either return the box to the sender, destroy the prohibited items, or require you to take additional actions to address the matter, which may include paying fines or providing additional paperwork, depending on the circumstances and nature of the confiscated items.

Shippsy Handles Customs On Your Behalf

You don’t have to go through all the hassles of customs clearance processing yourself. Let Shippsy manage Canadian customs clearance on your behalf effortlessly!

Shippsy’s team of experts can help you navigate all angles of customs procedures, ensuring seamless handling and compliance with regulations for your shipments destined for Canada. With Shippsy, you can relax as we handle the paperwork, assessment of duties, and any necessary communications with authorities, streamlining the process and ensuring timely delivery of your US goods to your destination.

Get Started With Shippsy

Ship with Shippsy today

Enjoy cross-border shopping and shipping all you want in the easiest, most affordable, and hassle-free way possible by shipping with Shippsy. No need for you to look for a third-party customs broker. All you need to do is create your Shippsy account!

Simply click the Get Started button on Shippsy’s homepage and provide the required contact information. Registration is completed in just a few clicks, and you can start using your exclusive Shippsy account number and US shipping address to check out the items in your digital shopping cart.

With your Shippsy account, not only can you get access to products from all your favourite US brands and retailers, but you also enjoy the cheapest top-notch shipping options, fastest delivery time, and best overall cross-border shipping experience.

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