Frequently Asked Questions

Q:   Who is our Customs Broker?

A:   Thompson Ahern Int'l
       6299 Airport Road, Suite 305
       Mississauga, Ontario, L4V 1N3
       Fax: (905) 677-3584

Q:  What is a Commercial Invoice?

A:   Documentation completed by the exporter (sender) that accompanies a shipment entering Canada. The commercial invoice should contain specific information to assist in Canadian Customs Clearance:

  • Sender's name and Address
  • Consignee's Name and Address
  • Importer of Record (IOR) - name of responsible party in Canada
  • Detailed Description of goods
  • Country of Origin (Manufacture) of goods
  • Value and currency of goods
  • Reason for shipment - sale, repair, replacement, temporary import.

Q:   What do I do with Packing Slips?

A:   Packing slips are verification that you actually received what you ordered.  Upon receiving your goods, each item in the shipment should be checked against the packing slip and verified that the correct item and quantity have been received without damage.  The packing slips should be dated and signed by the person verifying the contents. 

If goods were ordered by PO (Purchase Order), packing slips should be scanned and attached to the online receipt in SupplyNet.

If goods were purchased by PCard, packing slips should be attached to the monthly credit card statement.

This is standard best practice for all shipments but is strongly recommended for International Shipments because this verification is a required component of a customs audit. 

Q:   Why am I being charged GST by customs for goods that I did not purchase? (i.e. complimentary samples, gifts)

A:   Taxable goods and services imported into Canada are subject to GST, the amount of which is calculated on the value of the goods plus duties in Canadian Dollars at the time of importation.  GST is payable by either the "purchaser" or the "importer".  In most cases, even though there is no purchase transaction, the University is the importer and is therefore accountable for the GST.

Q:   Why am I being asked to provide a "commercial value" for goods that don't really have a value?  I didn't purchase them, a colleague is shipping samples to me at no charge.

A:   All goods entering Canada are required to be reported to CBSA.  The value for duty is usually based on the "price paid or payable" to the supplier, but in cases where a price is not paid to the supplier, a fair market value is used.

In the case of research samples, if there is no retail value, the customs value should be based on the foreign sender’s cost (in time and supplies) to extract and prepare the samples.

Under no circumstances would CBSA accept a declared value of $0 or “No Commercial Value”.

Q:   Where do I get an import permit?

A:   Various government agencies issue permits for various reasons.  The most common is Canadian Food Inspection Agency.  CFIA issues permits related to the importation of food, plants, animals and their products.  Other permits may be issued by Health Canada (i.e. human pathogens) or International Trade Canada (i.e. steel products).  The Customs Division can assist you with contact information for the appropriate agency and in obtaining permit application forms. 

Q:   I am only importing goods into Canada temporarily.  The goods will be exported at a later date.  How do I get my GST and duty reimbursed?

A:   Temporary import arrangements should be made prior to the goods arriving in Canada.  Eligible goods may be documented on a Temporary Admission permit, or an ATA Carnet.  Generally, all goods being imported temporarily, so long as they are not being imported for sale, lease, further manufacturing, or processing, will qualify for duty-free entry and some may qualify as GST exempt.  It is more difficult to obtain reimbursement of duties and taxes after the goods have been imported and re-exported.  Please contact Customs Services at 780-492-3435 if you are anticipating a temporary import situation.

Q:   I am a student living in residence at the University of Alberta.  Why can't I have international courier shipments sent to my address in Lister Residence?

A:   Goods entering Canada that have "University of Alberta" in the address are assumed by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to be business related (commercial) shipments.  There is no way to differentiate between a commercial and a "personal" shipment when it enters Canada by mail or courier.

Personal shipments sent by courier cannot be accepted at SMS Central Receiving.  The receivers will return the shipment to the courier company to deliver directly to the student.  To avoid delays in obtaining international packages, students should omit "University of Alberta" from their address in residence and may wish to make arrangements with the courier company for pick up.

Q:   I am moving from the USA to work at the University of Alberta.  Can I combine my personal effects and my office/lab equipment into one shipment?

A:   Goods for business and personal goods should not be combined into one shipment.  Your new department may authorize to have your office/lab equipment shipped to the University of Alberta and those "commercial" goods are cleared through customs by our customs broker.
Personal goods are imported differently, and you should report to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in person to declare "personal effects".  If the two types of goods are combined, the entire shipment will be treated as "business" related and you may be required to pay duty and taxes on otherwise exempt goods.

Q:   Why was my shipment from the USA not delivered over-night as guaranteed by the courier?

A:   Generally, a courier's guarantee applies to delivery time outside of customs regulatory delays.  The delivery guarantee is usually modified by one day for each day of the customs release process, which is out of the courier's control.  Similar adjustments are common in the event of weather disturbances affecting the courier's ability to deliver.

Q:   Why does the SMS Customs Services call/email me for a speed code for every international shipment?

A:   GST, duty and brokerage charges will be expensed to the speed code and account referenced on the original purchase order to the vendor.  If the foreign goods were ordered by PCard, Customs Services will contact the ordering department for a speed code. If there is a PO number referenced on the customs documents, Customs Services will apply the import charges to the same speed code as the PO.