Travel Tips For Snowbirds Returning To Canada

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

The Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Snowbird Association are encouraging Canadians who have spent the winter abroad to plan ahead for a smooth return to Canada this spring.

These are the top travel tips to know before arriving at the border:

Have your travel documents handy. Whether travelling by land, air or water, you can help speed up processing times by coming prepared with your travel documents.

Driving home? Plan ahead and check border wait times. You can avoid waiting in line by planning your drive to cross the border during non-peak hours such as early morning.

Flying home? Save time with Advance Declaration. Download the application on your smart phone to make your customs declaration up to 72 hours in advance of your arrival into Canada at the TorontoVancouver, Montréal, WinnipegHalifax, Québec City, OttawaBilly BishopCalgary and Edmonton international airports. Data shows that using this tool can reduce time at a kiosk or eGate by up to 50%.

Be prepared to declare your goods upon entry into Canada Gather your receipts for goods purchased or received while away before you travel and keep them readily available. Visit I Declare: A guide for residents returning to Canada and use the CBSA duty and taxes estimator to help calculate your monies owed. You should be aware of everything that is inside your vehicle as you are responsible for its contents.

Know your exemptions from duties and taxesIf you have been outside of Canada seven days or more, you can import goods worth up to CAN$800, duty-and tax-free. Within this personal exemption, you are allowed to bring back duty and tax free:

  • Two bottles of wine (1.5 litres total), or one large standard bottle of liquor (1.14 litres), or approximately 24 cans or bottles (355 ml each) of beer (8.5 litres total); and,
  • 200 cigarettes, and 50 cigars, and 200 grams manufactured tobacco, and 200 tobacco sticks. The packages must be stamped “duty paid,” as you would find them at a duty-free store.

Travelling with medication? If you have a prescription for a narcotic or controlled drug, you must declare it and ensure its in properly labelled container. Learn more about your responsibilities.

Travelling with firearms? If you are travelling with a firearm be sure to check the rules on importing firearms and other restricted and prohibited goods before your departure. Better yet, consider leaving the firearm at home.

Importing a vehicle? If you are a resident of Canada you can temporarily import a vehicle that is licensed and registered in the United States, however, the duty and tax implications, the length of time the vehicle can remain in Canada, and how the vehicle can be used in Canada may differ. If you are permanently importing a vehicle from the U.S. or Mexico, visit Canada’s Registrar of Imported Vehicles website prior to arriving at the border for details about vehicle eligibility and the overall process, including the necessary duties and taxes.

Bringing poultry across the border? Any poultry products you wish to bring into Canada must be for human consumption, retail packaged and labelled as a “Product of the USA.” Homemade food or leftovers containing poultry cannot be brought into Canada. Check the latest Information for travellers: Restrictions on poultry and birds from the United States before bringing these products across the border.

Travelling with a pet or importing an animal into Canada? You will need the right paperwork at the border to meet Canada’s import requirements.

Not sure? Ask a border officer. The best thing you can do to save time is to be open and honest with the CBSA officer. Be sure to follow all instructions they provide to you. If you are not sure about what to declare, don’t hesitate to ask. CBSA officers are here to help!

Quick facts
  • The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) supports national security and public safety priorities by facilitating the free flow of persons and goods, including animals and plants.
  • The Canadian Snowbird Association is a not-for-profit advocacy organization for travelling Canadians, representing more than 115,000 members.


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