Customs Permit/License for Restricted or Controlled Goods

Import and export permits and licenses are used by various agencies in the Canadian government to control or identify the flow of specific commodities into and out of Canada. The use of permits ensures the safety of public health, the environment and Canadian industry.

Permits/Licenses must be obtained and be in the possession of the holder prior to goods crossing the Canadian border. Goods without an appropriate permit/license risk being refused entry or exit and may be seized or forfeited at the unit or department’s expense.

Permits cannot be issued after goods arrive at the border. Therefore, in order to avoid shipment delays and potential penalties, permits must be obtained before placing an order with the foreign supplier.

It is the responsibility of the UofA business unit to ensure appropriate permits and licenses are obtained. The home unit/department of the employee ordering, taking possession of or exporting restricted or controlled goods is responsible for any penalties, which can be issued by the specific Canadian government agency (e.g. Canada Food Inspection Agency) in addition to penalties issued by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Employees/business units who anticipate importing or exporting restricted or controlled goods should contact Customs Services as early as possible in the planning stages.
Normally, 3-6 weeks are required to arrange for export permits and documentation, depending on the nature of the goods and complexity of the transaction.

Below is a reference list of typical commodities and related permits and government departments that Customs Services sees on a regular basis.

*This is not an exhaustive list. If you have questions, please contact Customs Services or the appropriate government agency.


Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
Seed, plant materials, tissue samples - may require import permits. Search ‘import’.
Live animals, fish, embryos - require permits

Contact Customs Services before your foreign supplier ships the goods. Permits cannot be issued after goods arrive at the Canadian border.

Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES)
Tissue samples of endangered species of plants and animals require a permit to allow the goods to move out of other countries and into Canada and vice versa.

Canadian Heritage, Movable Cultural Property Program (Cultural Properties Permits)
Antiques, aboriginal artifacts, meteorites all require permits to allow goods to move out of other countries and into Canada and vice versa.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
Radioactive materials require licenses for import and export in addition to UofA site permits. Contact UofA - Environmental Health & Safety

Public Health Agency of Canada
Human pathogens and toxins require permits for import and export.
Contact UofA - Environmental Health & Safety
Genetically Altered Organisms may require authorization or permit issued prior to import into Canada.

Health Canada
Precursor chemicals, narcotics and veterinary drugs require authorization and/or permit.
Contact Customs Services for assistance with applications.

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
Import Control List, Export Control List, Area Control List and Canadian Economic Sanctions all regulate, control or prohibit specified goods to specific countries:

US origin goods and technology - not allowed to be shipped from Canada to any country on the Area Control List and Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Syria. Shipping to any other country requires GEP-12 (General Export Permit) to be referenced on shipping/customs documents.