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One of the important tasks you will have to do when moving to Canada, whether you're a new permanent resident or returning after an absence of one year or more, you will have to declare your goods at the Canadian border.

Declaring your goods on arrival is necessary to be able to enter Canada as a new permanent resident. Even if you don’t have any goods with you, you must provide your list of goods to the border services officer at your first point of entry in Canada. Even if you are stopping on a layover in a Canadian airport to your final destination in Canada.

The form you need to fill out is called a Form BSF186, Personal Effects Accounting Document. You can save time by filling it out before you arrive in Canada.

This article will provide important information that will help you fill out the BSF186 as well as the BSF186A (goods-to-follow list). By the end, you should be one step closer to being prepared to arrive in Canada.


Before you move to Canada

You can prepare to declare your items in advance by completing the following tasks:

  1. Prepare a Detailed List: Before departing for Canada, create two copies of a comprehensive list detailing all the goods you plan to bring. This includes items such as clothing, furniture, appliances, personal computers, and even personal vehicles.
  2. Divide Your List: Categorize your list into two sections – one for items accompanying you and the other for goods to follow. Only items on your original list will qualify for duty- and tax-free importation if they arrive later.

Doing so will save you time at the border and possibly prevent headaches for both you and the border official.

What are B4 and B4A documents?

Form BSF186 (or B4)

This form is used to list and track the items you are bringing with you to Canada as soon as you arrive. It helps the border officers determine if you need to pay duty on any of the goods. We’ve listed some of these items below but you can see the official source of information on the Canadian government website.

Form BSF186A (or B4A)

This form is used to track your items that are arriving in Canada separately. So, if you are having any of your belongings shipped, this is the form you need to fill out. It is important to fill out this form as accurately as possible, because otherwise you may have to pay duty in order to import these items into the country.

Items Eligible for Duty- and Tax-Free Importation

You can find the full list of permitted and restricted items on the Canada border services website.

You can include a range of personal and household effects in your entitlement, such as clothing, furniture, jewelry, antiques, personal computers, and more.

Specifications on certain items:

  1. Value Limitation (CAD$10,000): Former residents are subject to duty and taxes for single items worth more than CAD$10,000. This limitation applies to items acquired after March 31, 1977.
  2. Additional Personal Exemption (CAD$800): Claim a duty- and tax-free personal exemption of up to CAD$800 for goods acquired abroad or while in transit.
  3. Wedding Gifts: Newlyweds can bring in wedding gifts free of duty and taxes if they marry within three months of arriving in Canada, with no requirement to have used the goods.
  4. Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco Products: Specific guidelines apply; refer to the respective sections in the “I Declare” document.
  5. Jewellery: Describe each item of jewellery using the wording from the appraisal or insurance policy. It is also good to include photographs that have been dated and signed by a jeweller or gemologist. Doing so makes it easier to identify the jewellery when you first enter Canada and later when you return from abroad.

Be aware of the following:

Currency Restrictions: Check with your financial advisor to understand if your country has restrictions on exporting currency to Canada. Some countries may allow claiming free importation of goods purchased with blocked funds due to currency restrictions.

Ownership, Possession, and Use Requirements: To import goods duty- and tax-free, meet the stipulated ownership, possession, and use requirements, which vary for settlers and former residents.

Declaring Your Goods: Even if arriving empty-handed, provide a list of goods to the border services officer and complete Form BSF186. This form serves as a receipt for claiming free importation of your unaccompanied goods.

Disposing of Goods: If you sell or give away duty- and tax-free goods within one year of importation, you’ll be required to pay the initially exempted duties and taxes.

Restrictions: Be aware of goods that are either restricted or prohibited, covering categories such as currency, food, health products, firearms, and more.

Be sure to refer to official documents for specific regulations. For additional information, contact the Border Information Service for personalized assistance.

For other aspects of your move, Moving2Canada offers a free personalized immigration checklist for everyone who signs up for a free Moving2Canada account. You’ll also get access to exclusive online resources and deals from our partners.

Also, if you’re interested in moving to Canada but not sure which program you may be eligible for, check your eligibility for more than 20 Canadian immigration programs by taking Moving2Canada’s free Canada Immigration Quiz.

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