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Shipping Restrictions from US Brands Importing into Canada

Table of Contents

Shipping Restrictions from US Brands Importing into Canada Explanation

Importing goods from the United States into Canada is common practice for many businesses looking to expand their reach. However, companies must navigate this process with a complex web of shipping restrictions. Failure to comply with these restrictions from customs documentation to product-specific rules can lead to costly delays and penalties. This article will break down key regulations, give real-world examples, and show how partnering with an experienced 3PL like Amazon, or Tactical Logistic Solutions can simplify compliance.

Key Takeaways

  • Learn the regulations for importing into Canada.
  • Use a 3PL solution like Amazon to simplify regulatory compliance.
  • Consult experts whenever importing new product types or expanding to additional provinces.

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Why This Matters

With over $400+ billion in annual trade, the Canada-US trade relationship is one of the largest in the world. As e-commerce booms globally, more US brands are looking to enter the Canadian market and need to understand its unique import regulations. Misfires due to non-compliance can bankrupt smaller businesses. Using a 3PL solution can provide the expertise needed to avoid missteps.

Common Shipping Restrictions

Regulatory Compliance

All imports need proper customs documentation. Businesses should understand HS classification codes, and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) accounting standards, and know what information goes on a commercial invoice. Goods also must meet Health Canada and TC safety standards. Certain products like telecom equipment and firearms require special import licenses.

Product-Specific Restrictions

  • Food/Agriculture: Special permits needed for meat, dairy, produce, etc. as well as meeting CFIA policies.


  • Pharmaceuticals: Strict HC rules for both OTC and prescription medications entering Canada.


  • Textiles: Need textile labelling compliance and may face extra tariffs.


Tariffs and Duties

While the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) eliminated most tariffs on goods traded between the three countries, some United States-origin products still face import duties when entering Canada and Mexico. Categories of goods that continue to have tariffs applied include footwear, steel, aluminum, and other select items.

For example, certain footwear products like leather shoes and boots imported from the US into Canada are subject to tariffs of up to 18%. Most steel and aluminum goods traded between the US and Mexico face duties of 25% and 10% respectively. Beyond footwear, metals, and aluminum, other US-origin items that still contend with tariffs when entering Canada or Mexico include dairy products, specific textile and apparel items, motor vehicles, and particular agricultural goods.

To accurately estimate the duties that will be applied, businesses trading goods between the US, Canada, and Mexico need to leverage Harmonized System codes (HS codes) which precisely classify every type of product. Additionally, businesses can utilize duty calculator tools available online to input the HS code and country of origin/destination to determine the specific tariffs imposed.

Proactively checking HS codes and using duty calculators empowers companies to precisely calculate costs and dutiable amounts when exporting US goods to Canada and Mexico. This allows businesses to build tariffs into pricing strategies and import/export plans to avoid any surprises and maintain profit margins. Although the USMCA significantly expanded tariff-free trade, businesses must remain aware of products still subject to duties when trading within North America.

How Amazon 3PL Solutions Can Help

Streamlined Customs Clearance

Amazon has expertise in TBAs, Bonded Carrier Licenses, and other customs requirements that allows them to expedite and simplify the clearance process. Their technology also enables real-time tracking of shipments.

For all the Important International Shipping Documents For Amazon 3PL Inventory Management ( check out our blog!

Warehousing and Logistics

Amazon operates warehousing and storage locations close to the Canadian border, allowing for quicker turnover of importing/exporting goods. This is especially useful for high-demand products.

Specialized Solutions

Amazon’s logistics services are tailored to manage product-specific rules. For example, they can provide climate controlled transport for pharmaceuticals or ensure textile labeling meets CA regulations. This covers even highly restricted products.

CARM Compliance

In addition to product-specific rules, imports into Canada must comply with CARM (Cargo Risk Assessment Model) requirements. CARM is used by CBSA to screen shipments and determine if they need further inspection.

To support CARM compliance:

  • Provide accurate and detailed descriptions of your goods, including HS codes. This helps CBSA properly assess risk.
  • Ensure your business is registered and compliant with CBSA expectations. Unregistered or non-compliant shippers may trigger CARM.
  • Work with Amazon or an importer of record who understands CARM. Their expertise can ensure shipments are classified properly.
  • Follow all rules and regulations. Any violation or discrepancy could lead CBSA to flag your shipment for inspection.

Properly documenting your cargo and working with experienced import partners is key to smooth CARM compliance. This avoids potential shipment delays and intensive inspections.

 Our blog What is CARM? | Tactical Logistic Solutions goes over what CARM is and how to comply with its guidelines moving forward. Give it a look!

Case Study: Medical Device Import

The Challenge

MedTechCo needed to ship wearable medical devices from their LA headquarters to Canada. This included clearing strict Health Canada requirements. Delayed shipments could cost them thousands.

The Solution

  • Classifying and documenting goods with Health Canada guidelines.
  • Screening shipments to guarantee compliance.
  • Using Amazon’s bonded carrier license for smooth customs clearance.
  • Leveraging Amazon’s warehousing network to expedite deliveries across Canada.


Although importing goods from the United States into Canada can be complicated for businesses unfamiliar with the country-specific regulations and complexity, partnering with an experienced third-party logistics provider (3PL) like Amazon enables companies to comply and expand into Canada with greater ease. The logistics expertise of a 3PL like Amazon helps manage the intricacies of cross-border trade, taking on responsibilities like customs clearance, finding compliant warehousing solutions, unraveling product-specific requirements, and more. Leveraging a knowledgeable logistics partner reduces the heavy burden on businesses to independently stay on top of the wide array of importing considerations. 

Overall, importing into Canada requires diligent information gathering, regulatory knowledge, preparation, and smart collaboration with logistics specialists. By educating themselves on Canada’s import rules, proactively planning for duties/taxes, obtaining guidance on product classifications, and selecting the right logistics partner like Amazon, businesses can overcome obstacles in the import process. Making use of available expertise and resources allows companies to comply fully, clear customs seamlessly, get goods to market efficiently and expand their geographical footprint into Canada confidently. Keeping current on regulations and compliance while letting experienced 3PLs handle logistical heavy lifting is the recipe for import success into the Canadian market.

FAQ: Shipping Restrictions from US to Canada

You’ll need to prepare customs documentation, ensure your goods meet Health Canada and TC safety standards, and obtain any required import licenses.


HS (Harmonized System) classification codes are used internationally to classify products for customs purposes. These codes determine the tariffs and duties you’ll need to pay.


Amazon has expertise in TBAs, Bonded Carrier Licenses, and other customs requirements, allowing for expedited and simplified clearance processes. They also offer real-time tracking of shipments.


Yes, certain products like food, pharmaceuticals, and textiles have additional restrictions and may require special permits or compliance with specific regulations.


A bonded carrier license allows goods to move through a country without undergoing full customs clearance until they reach their final destination, thus speeding up the shipping process.


Businesses can use HS codes and duty calculators to get an estimate of the costs involved in importing goods into Canada.


Consult experts and leverage 3PL solutions to ensure compliance with both federal and provincial regulations.


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