How long does it take to clear customs in Canada? |'s Blog on Customs Brokerage and News Updates

How long does it take to clear customs in Canada?

Once you’ve decided what kind of goods you’d like to import into Canada and selected a customs broker to work with, this is the question on top of every business’ mind: How long does it take to clear customs? 

This is understandable, time is of the essence — especially in the context of business. Speed is a pretty common tennant of business values for organizational operations. 

“Work smart. Get things done. No nonsense. Move fast.”

Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube

When we think about this in terms of importing goods, the faster your goods arrive into Canada, the faster you can sell them and profit, ideally. 

The catch? A release of your shipment of imported goods can take anywhere from a few minutes to several days, depending on the situation. Starting at 20 minutes: once your customs broker completes the entry for your customs and sends over the appropriate documentation, it will take approximately 20 minutes for CBSA to receive it. 

Once your entry has arrived at CBSA, it is left up to the customs officer to review the documentation and decide to accept or reject your goods’ entry. The length of time here is entirely up to the amount of customs officers on staff and congestion at the destination port. 

What if your shipment is held for inspection? 

cbsa warehouse

It is certainly possible that your goods may be held for inspection prior to being cleared. If your shipment is being inspected, it is placed into a warehouse and inspected by a customs officer. In this scenario, customs officers will often visit various sites in the mornings and will process releases in the afternoon. This can take around 48 hours, or even longer, if traffic is high during this period. 

Take note: customs releases are not guaranteed. 

There are a plethora of reasons that goods may be rejected by customs. Here is a breakdown of the 2 main types of rejections: 

Temporary rejections: This can occur when the information provided with the entry does not correspond with the shipment’s initial paperwork. Customs will notify the broker and a change to the entry documentation will be made. While this can be inconvenient, it is pretty straightforward to address. 

Permanent rejections: There are a handful of reasons that a shipment can get permanently rejected by Canadian customs. A blatant misstep in declarations, under-valuing your shipment, or attempting to move goods into Canada that are fully non-permissible for health and safety reasons (as stipulated in federal regulations). In this case scenario, you will have to arrange for the goods to be shipped back to the supplier at the country of origin. Your other option is to have the goods destroyed by CBSA, but you will be on the hook for the expense here as well. 

There are a few things you can do to save time and avoid costly delays. 

First things first, make sure that the imported goods are permissible for entry into Canada as per regulations. A customs broker will be able to identify this very quickly.

customs regulations

Then, you must ensure that you work with a broker to file all appropriate documentation accurately. There are also documents to be filed once the goods arrive at the destination port. Your broker will know when and what to file here as well. 

Click here to read our recent post: What You Need to Know Before Working in Imports & Exports. 

It really comes down to working with a broker that is experienced with clearing Canadian customs. Regulations and paperwork are not exactly sexy, we know! But making sure to approach these steps with care is almost a surefire way to make sure your goods move into Canada smoothly.

If you’d like to learn more about how we apply our expertise to move goods into Canada, click here.