Sunday, 13 March 2011

Part 7: Dealing With Canada Border Services Agency

This is part of an ongoing series of posts starting here.

Once I had the 2 required documents in hand, I decided to call the local CBSA office I was planning to use so I could get some information about the process. There is no contact number on any of the individual agency offices on the CBSA webpage so you have to call the main CBSA contact number and ask them to connect you to the office you need to talk to.

In my case, the office is in the Kelowna International Airport. I was relieved to find that the gentleman on the end of the phone knew what I was talking about and agreed that I had all the required documents to pay the expected fees to self clear the shipment.

Nonetheless, when my wife and I visited the office at 7 PM that evening, the 2 (different) agents on duty had no real idea how to perform the process I required or even if I had the correct documents. Since this was my first time doing this, I had no real idea what was actually required at the time so we had to leave with our documents and instructions to get some more information and return tomorrow.

I did some more reading when I got home and became convinced that I did, in fact, have all the required information to do what needed to be done. The next day I called the office again and got the same agent I had spoken to by phone the previous day.

He was concerned to hear what had happened when I had visited the night before and asked me to fax him the documents I had so he could confirm that he was correct and we did possess all the required information. We did so and he called back within 30 minutes to say yes, we had everything we needed and he could prepare the required document after we paid taxes and duties.

It was at this point that I came to the realization that this process is either so new or so under utilized that even the CBSA agents are unclear on the program. In fact, in my reading, it seems that some border services offices are unaware that they are expected to perform this service for citizens at all. Some will flat out refuse. I don't know what to tell folks in that unfortunate instance apart from suggesting they contact Border Services federal office and complain.

I once again called UPS brokerage to confirm what was required by them to release the package and the supervisor told me that the Border Services agent would have to fax a form of some type to the customs office in Vancouver or Richmond to clear the shipment.

I stated that I did not think that was the case and that there should be a number for me to fax proof of fees paid so the package could be cleared and delivered. She reluctantly provided me the fax number of the Richmond bonded warehouse holding my package but she didn't think it would be useful or required since she was sure that customs would communicate all this stuff internally. Again, this was my first time so I really wasn't 100% sure but I took the fax number anyways.

My wife and I returned to the airport and met the agent I had spoken to on the phone. We had the cargo control document, the commercial invoice and my wife had her photo ID as the importer. He used the documents to calculate the required taxes and duties. We paid them by Visa and he issued us a B-15 form. I asked about him faxing his counterparts in Vancouver to complete the process. He said UPS was wrong and that all I needed to do was fax UPS the B-15 form he just provided me.

We were in and out in less than 15 minutes with one of these (personal info redacted):


This blog is not legal advice. It is a diary of my own experience and research. You cannot avoid paying legal duties and taxes on goods imported into Canada. This is not about avoiding taxes or duties. In fact, part of this process is paying them as required directly to a customs agent. This is about avoiding the UPS brokerage fee which is nothing more than a ridiculously large service charge paid directly to UPS for a service you neither asked for nor necessarily require.

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