Importing and Invoicing: What Paperwork Do You Need? |'s Blog on Customs Brokerage and News Updates

Importing and Invoicing: What Paperwork Do You Need?

It’s fair to say that nobody enjoys filling out and keeping track of multiple sets of paperwork, but when it comes to importation, it’s necessary to keep track and be aware of your paperwork at every stage in the process.

There’s nothing more frustrating than having your shipment come to a screeching halt because of a missing document, or worse, a simple unchecked box or a blank space. That’s why having the mandatory forms in order, as well as checking (and double-checking) that they contain accurate information and are complete will quite literally save you time, money — and one giant headache!

While there are special circumstances that may require extra documentation, there are a few standard articles of paperwork across the board that are needed to ensure a smooth process. Let’s take a closer look…

Canada Customs Invoice / Commercial Invoice

Invoicing is the final key piece to ensuring your imports successfully cross the border. When it goes awry, it can result in delays from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or, possibly worse, make for tense relations with vendors as you leave them in limbo over payment.

For goods coming into Canada, the most important form to include for the CBSA with your shipment is the CI1, otherwise known as a Canada Customs Invoice. The document outlines 25 sections filled in with information relevant to any commercial shipment valued over $2,500 CDN, including:

  • The names and addresses of both purchaser and vendor
  • The countries of origin and destination
  • The size, weight, quantity, and unit price of the shipment
  • Specific details regarding the goods in question (as per the CBSA: “kind of packages, marks and numbers, general description and characteristics, i.e., grade, quality”)
  • The calculated invoice total

Given the vendor is the one collecting payment, it seems logical that they would supply the invoice — however, as the purchaser, you also have the option of completing the form on both parties’ behalf, or, more securely, entrusting it to a customs broker.

Because of the critical nature of this form to determine the fate of a shipment, it’s important to communicate and establish up front which party is responsible for completing the CI1 and, at the very least, ensure the responsible party is in possession of the correct information.

Alternatively, if an official Canada Customs Invoice is not used, the purchaser has the option to complete a standard Commercial Invoice — however, one of two conditions must be met:

  • Your Commercial Invoice must contain the exact same information outlined in the CI1;
  • Your Commercial Invoice must indicate the buyer and seller, price payable, and a specific description of the goods, along with a CI1 detailing the remainder of the required info.

Bill of Lading

When your imported items are being shipped by any mode of transportation (truck, train, airplane, etc.), a Bill of Lading is required by the CBSA to ensure that what you say is inside your transport vessel is, in fact, what’s inside your transport vessel.

In layman’s terms, the Bill is, first and foremost, a legal contract between importer and exporter, upheld in Canada by the Bills of Lading Act. It is intended to provide a detailed, itemized list not dissimilar to that of Canada Customs Invoice, featuring:

  • Origin and destination
  • Specific products included
  • Size, weight and quantity
  • Shipping details

While it’s the responsibility of the vendor to ensure that everything on the list is “on the truck” before the shipment goes out, the Bill of Lading gives importers and their customs broker partners an airtight checklist of items to look out for once the shipment arrives, in order to guarantee exactly what is arriving in case any problems arise.

Other Possible Requirements

In addition to the required forms, depending on the goods being shipped to Canada, you may also require CBSA to be in possession of specific import permits to allow final border clearance.

To be certain about which items, the Government of Canada keeps an Import Control List on its website, updated as necessary, to indicate which items — such as anything requiring a permit or license to use, anything sanctioned from another country, or any prohibited goods — may be subject to further tariffs or scrutiny from border officials.

Similarly, importing vehicles to Canada has its very own set of particulars, with different rules applying to imports from the U.S. and those from all other countries. Individuals important a car from the States, for example, require — in addition to a Canada Customs Invoice and Bill of Lading — a special e-form to be filled out from the Canadian Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV), provided your vehicle is considered admissible to begin with.

Do You Have All of the Necessary Paperwork For Your Import in Order?

Are you in possession of a Canada Customs Invoice and a Bill of Lading? Does your shipment requires special forms on top of the standard paperwork?

If you’re unclear about the answers to either question, contact a customs broker today and we’ll ensure your forms check all the necessary boxes to complete your transaction!