Canada is the United States' second largest trading partner after China. Geographic proximity as well as product preferences and consumer tastes that closely parallel those in America make our neighbor to the north an attractive market for US shippers and mailers. There is also the added stimulus of the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA has made commerce between our two counties easier (and more lucrative) than any time in history. Nevertheless, there are some important details that mailers and shippers should heed when sending items to Canada.

    Low-Value Clearance
    Canada allows goods valued less than $2,500 CAN to be imported for expedited release as long as goods are for personal use and not intended for resale or other commercial uses. The resulting benefit of this simplified clearance process is a faster transit time from sender to recipient.

    The company handling the shipment, such as a courier, postal authority or customs broker, must be enrolled in the Canadian Courier Low-Value Shipment Program to participate in this program.

    Prohibited and regulated goods, such as tobacco, firearms, pharmaceuticals and controlled substances, are not included in this program regardless of shipment value.

    Duties and Taxes
    Yes, Canada's Low-Value Shipment Program allows qualifying shipments to be cleared easily. Be aware, however, that it does not exempt the sender or recipient from applicable duties and taxes. Shippers must work with a courier or mail partner who has a brokerage-inclusive shipping product and the ability to receive the duties and taxes as a bill from the carrier or to pay Canadian customs directly. The best example of this is an air courier shipment in which the courier acts as the customs broker. Two consequences could occur if shippers do not utilize this type of service. Shipments could be held by customs. It's also possible that shippers or recipients could receive a duty bill from Canadian customs as many as nine months after a shipment is delivered.

    Non-Resident Importer Program
    This popular program for parcel shippers and mailers, especially those in business-to-consumer e-commerce, allows them to work directly with Canadian authorities and establish, in essence, a proxy. This stand-in status bestows the benefit of being treated like a Canadian business. One of the major benefits is the authorization to pay duties and taxes directly to Canadian authorities, thus avoiding unanticipated, after-the-fact bills for shippers, mailers or their customers. This option is especially popular for commercial entities who wish to sell products to customers utilizing a "fully landed cost," in other words, including Canadian duties and taxes in product price quotes.

    Additionally, the Non-Resident Importer Program allows the sender to utilize a mailing option because the duties and taxes ultimately revert back to the original sender. Shippers and mailers in the program may also be eligible for preferential duty rates and rebates associated with Canada's Goods and Services tax.

    A licensed customhouse broker can assist US shippers and mailers set up the Non-Resident Importer Program, which requires obtaining a Canadian business ID number, a Goods and Services tax registration number and an import/export number.

    NAFTA Certificate of Origin
    The North American free-trade zone, the largest free-trade area on Earth, accounts for more than a quarter of the world's total gross domestic product. Many duties and taxes have been reduced or eliminated thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Goods manufactured within the NAFTA region, however, need a NAFTA certificate of origin to qualify for those duty and tax benefits. A certificate of origin may be used for a single importation of a product or multiple importations of identical ones. A certificate of origin (available in most shipping-related software) must be completed and signed by the exporter of the shipment.

    Information Resources
    By understanding the Canada Low-Value Import Program, Non-Resident Importer Program
    and the NAFTA certificate of origin, US parcel shippers and mailers can potentially expand their business opportunities to more than 34 million new customers. Knowledge is the key to success in this situation. Shippers and mailers can find basic information and answers to frequently asked questions about Canadian commerce at For specific details, consult a licensed customhouse broker with special expertise in Canadian shipping and mailing regulations.

    About Neopost USA
    Krishna Iyer is Director, Marketing, Neopost USA. Neopost USA provides mailing, business communication management and shipping hardware and software solutions. For generations, the company has worked with its customers to prepare, deliver and manage their customer communications in the most secure, efficient and professional manner possible. As businesses increasingly move to digital communications, Neopost USA continues to help its customers send, receive and connect via physical mail, digital communications and packages. For more information about Neopost USA, visit