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What Can I Bring Into Canada? Duty-free Limits for Residents and Visitors

According the Canada Customs officer who inspected my can of French-made duck confit on my re-entry to Canada this week, the fine for lying on your declaration card has jumped to a hefty $800 CDN or thereabouts.

Of course you would never not tell the truth about what you were bringing into the country would you? Because everyone knows that Rule Number 1 of Happy Travel is: Don’t fib to the guys at the gate. They have more power than God.

Personal exemptions for Canadian residents:

  • $50 after 24 hours away
  • $400 after 48 hours
  • $750 after 7 days
  • above totals include: 1.5 litres of wine (usually 2 bottles); 1.14 litres (40 oz.) of hard liquor or 8.5 litres of beer or ale
  • 200 cigarettes; 50 cigars
  • Find complete details on the Canada Border Service Agency’s “I Declare” page

Exemptions for visitors to Canada:

  • items for personal use that will leave the country with you: declare computers, cameras etc. on arrival
  • unlimited gifts to a maximum value of $60 each (or be prepared to pay duty and taxes on the excess)
  • alcohol, tobacco and business-related products cannot be counted as gifts
  • See complete details on the Canada Border Service Agency’s “Visitors to Canada” page

Everyone should be prepared to declare food, firearms, large amounts of currency, and business goods.

Remember: there’s no penalty if you declare something that is not allowed–the worst that will happen is that it will be taken from you.

But if you’re caught with something in your luggage that you didn’t declare–and there are some very smart sniffer dogs working Canada’s borders–you will be fined.

As it turns out, I was allowed to keep my duck confit. Why? Because it did not require refrigeration.

And if I had brought back some French cheese, I would have been allowed to keep it as long as it was dry-packed–no water or whey involved. Next time…

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