Early in the process of importing commercial goods into Canada, it is important to have an understanding of the information required by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Depending how far along you are in the import business, you may be familiar with Canada’s ACI eManifest program. 

If you have not yet heard of the ACI eManifest program, we have previously covered the basics in a recent article: What is The ACI eManifest Program? 

Here is the link to CBSA’s eManifest Portal.

The eManifest program was designed to smooth the customs clearing process for CBSA officers and for importers alike, by allowing importers/brokers to transmit shipment information to customs prior to arrival.

What is a PARS label? 

One of the pieces of information to be included within the eManifest is a Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS) document or bar code. The PARS is a label that is used by CBSA to identify the shipment, and is attached with the commercial invoice.

When the shipment arrives at its destination in Canada, CBSA scans the PARS label and — if all is accurately and correctly listed — the goods are cleared. As opposed to the commonly used cargo document, A8A-B form, the PARS only requires one label for the entire shipment of goods.

Quite simply, you’ll be able to tell a PARS shipment at a glance if the letters PARS are on the label with the barcode.

pars label barcode

What is a PAPS label? 

In short, you may look at a Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) label as the American version of a PARS label. It is a label used by US Customs, also featured on the commercial invoice. US Customs officers need the PAPS label to identify whether a shipment should be released, or sent for further inspection. 

Typically, the customs broker will be in charge of selecting the shipment type while preparing for formal entry of the goods, thus identifying the PAPS number. Then, the carrier will use the same PAPS number.

Because there are many shipments that pass from Canada to the US or vice versa, most importers (and the customs brokers that work with them), have a handle on the different documentation and terminologies that refer to them required by customs officers in both countries.

In many cases, there are a lot of similarities. Especially in the context of PARS and PAPS labels and ACE/ACI eManifests. Both nations have near-identical processes for commercial shipments of these types, which is by no means an accident. Canada and the US have very import/export markets, societal concerns, and trade restrictions (though not entirely the same by any means).

What is the difference between PARS & PAPS? 

In essence, the governing bodies — Canada Border Services Agency for PARS and US Customs and Border Protection for PAPS. Beyond this, there are nuances to the information required and the documentation type to note as well. However, these labels were both created in order to smooth the customs clearing process for importers and officers.


North American customs brokers are well versed in the requirements for these documents. This type of regulatory documentation is central to the work they do. However, for importers, it is often not a central component. Importers are often also business owners, that need to focus on things other than the shipment of the goods themselves: marketing, research, staffing, storage, admin work, the list goes on. 

This is why most commercial importers opt to work with experienced brokers to guide them on what is required and file on their behalf. If you would like to learn more about the collaborative relationship between customs brokers and importers, start the conversation with a broker here.