Customs Guide for Personal Effects Shipping to Canada

Essential Documents & Customs Information For International Removals to Canada

Whenever you make a booking with 1st Move International, we will always advise you of the documentation required to not only ship from the UK, but also to enable you to import your household goods and personal effects in to the country which will become your new home.

However, here is a quick reference guide to give you a heads up on the documentation that you may require to import your items in to Canada.

Table of contents

What Are Personal Effects?

If you are moving to Canada from the UK, as an immigrant, you are allowed to import household goods and personal effects duty free, as long as they have been owned and used by you for at least 6 months prior to shipping.

For those on a student, visitor or work visa, the items imported must be for personal use during your stay and must be exported when your temporary residency status expires. The items cannot be sold or disposed of in Canada without Customs authorisation.

Canadians that are returning after living abroad are able to import household goods and personal effects that have been owned and used for at least 6 months prior to shipping, and they must be able to show documentary evidence of living outside of Canada for up to 12 months before moving back.

What Documents are Required to Import Personal Effects into Canada?

Valid Visa

There are various options for you to choose from when applying for a Visa to move to Canada, which allow you to import household goods, ranging from temporary Work or Study Visas to Permanent Resident Visas. With a Permanent Resident Visa you are able to import household goods and personal effects duty free within 6 months of the date of you Visa.

For more information go to the Government of Canada website where they have a section on Immigration and citizenship, and from here you can also Find Out If You Need a Visa to Travel to Canada or not.

Packing Inventory

This is a list and description of the goods that are being shipped. We will provide a packed inventory for any items that we are packing on your behalf, but for any items that you pack yourself you will need to provide us with an inventory advising the description of the items packed. Not to worry though, we will provide you with a blank inventory to complete once you have made your booking with us.

You will need to present this to Customs in Canada for them to review before they release your personal effects shipment to be delivered to you.

Bill of Lading

Once your goods have shipped from the UK, the shipping line will confirm the sailing date and estimated arrival date. They will also provide us with the Bill of Lading, which is the transport document specific to your shipment.

This document includes the name of the owner of the goods as well as the addresses in the UK and Canada. We will issue an “Express Bill of Lading” which means that an original document isn’t required, and you can claim your shipment with the shipping agent in Canada using a copy only, which we will provide to you.


Whether you have a UK or Canadian passport, or one issued elsewhere, we still require a good quality picture of the photo page. This must be in the same name as your shipping documents and be valid at the time of shipping.

What Do I Do When I Arrive in Canada?

All shipments need to be declared to Canadian Customs at the port of entry when you arrive in Canada. To do this you can usually check-in using the computer terminals on arrival, and make sure you check the “Goods to Follow” declaration on the screen.

It is important that your personal effects arrive AFTER you do, as the declaration needs to be completed before they arrive. If they arrive before you, there could be additional costs incurred as they will need to be stored in a Customs warehouse until you arrive and arrange Customs clearance. If stored for more than 40days they could be treated as unclaimed and ultimately disposed of.

Once your shipment has arrived, you will need to visit your nearest Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) office when requested to by the Customs agent. At this stage you complete the BSF186 form (which used to be completed in advance) and then Customs stamp your paperwork and you or your moving company are free to collect your goods!

What Items Are Restricted or Prohibited for Import into Canada?

As with other countries, you must be aware that there are some items that are restricted for import into Canada and others that are prohibited completely. If you do try to bring these items with you it may result in a fine, starting at CA$500.00 per violation, and confiscation of the goods.

Examples of items that are prohibited or restricted are;

  • Weapons and Firearms
  • Controlled or Illegal Substances
  • Food Products
  • Some Animal Products (furs, ivory etc)

Keep up to date with current legislation, the Canadian Border and Services Agency (CBSA) has a page on their website outlining all details of Restricted and Prohibited Goods when importing in to Canada.

According to the Canadian Customs rules, the importing of used or second-and mattresses unless they are accompanied by a certificate showing that they have been cleaned and fumigated. The rules state however that returning Canadians and settlers are exempt and the requirement is seldom enforced other than for individuals that have been away from Canda for less than one year.

Am I Able to Bring New / Unused Items to Canada as Personal Effects?

If you have items that are newer than 6 months old at the time of shipping to Canada, then you will be liable to pay Customs duties on the value of them. Canadian Customs require invoices/receipts showing the value of the items, along with an inventory.

After importing new items and paying duty and taxes on them, you are able to sell them at any time if you wish. Without payment of duty and taxes you cannot be disposed of within one year of import.

One exception are wedding gifts and “Trousseau” which can be imported duty and tax free, provided the marriage has taken 3 months prior to arriving in Canada, or expected to take place within 3 months of arrival.

Can I Import Inherited Items in to Canada?

As long as they are accompanied with a copy of the death certificate or a copy of the will or a letter from the Executor of the estate stating that you are a beneficiary, inherited items can be imported into Canada duty free.

They also need to be accompanied by a copy of your passport (personal identification) and a detailed inventory or list showing the value in Canadian dollars. They must have been owned and used for more than 6 months prior to entry into Canada.

If the items are being gifted, a signed statement from the donor giving a reason for the gift can be used, but bear in mind that gifts could be subject to import duties and taxes.

Can I Take My Car to Canada?

You are able to import a car or motorbike into Canada, but there are certain rules and regulations that you need to be aware of. Unless your vehicle is from the USA or Mexico it must be more than 15 years old, with an exception for vehicles that are imported on a temporary basis.

To import on a temporary basis, you need to be considered a visitor and this includes having a student or work visa. Once you have imported your car temporarily though it cannot be sold or other disposed of in Canada or remain in the country longer than the limit on your visa.

If you then become a permanent resident, your car or motorbike cannot be considered a temporary import and must meet the other requirements (Canadian standards or more than 15 years old) or be reexported or destroyed.

Import Duty and GST (Goods and Service Tax) are applicable on vehicle imports at a rate of 6.1% duty & 5% GST. For more details then contact our sister company Autoshippers who have been shipping cars and motorbikes to Canada for over 25years, they have an in-depth Canada Car Shipping Guide on their website with all of the information you would need to import and register your vehicle in Canada.

Shipping Furniture and Household Effects to Canada?

When you make a booking with 1st Move International, we will immediately send you instructions on all of the information and documentation that we require to enable us to collect, pack, ship and clear your shipment through Customs in the UK and Canada.

Our team of international removals experts are on hand to help with any questions that you have, and to help make international removals to Canada stress-free as possible.

If you would like to get the ball rolling, you can ask us for a quotation by completing the form on this page, giving us as much information as possible. Alternatively, you can call us on +44 117 982 8123 / 0800 389 0784 during UK office hours or e-mail on

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Your life, carefully wrapped, beautifully packed, and protected for the journey ahead.

We are extremely proud of our unique packing process. We are one of the only international movers in the UK that uses this tried and tested method to ship your treasured personal possessions overseas.

This is our craft - lives packed with care and attention for their journey overseas. Visit our Facebook page to find a snapshot of each shipment captured as the final pallet is wrapped.

We're proud to post these images, showcasing our removals team's passion and skill. Your personal effects are in the very best hands and are now destined for new adventures abroad.

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