Personal effects: What to do when returning or immigrating to Canada

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Personal effects: What to do when returning or immigrating to Canada

When returning or immigrating to Canada, it’s normal that you may have some personal effects you may want to bring along: clothing, furniture, appliances, books and much more. In order to avoid any complications with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), there are a few steps to take in consideration.

First off, you should determine the status for your return – or arrival – to Canada: are you a Settler or Former Resident?

Settlers are individuals who enter Canada with the intention of staying, for the first time, in residence for a period of not less than 12 months. Contractors may be a good example of individuals that fit right into this status. If you’re coming to Canada with the intention of staying longer than 36 months at your first arrival, you’ll be considered a Settler even though, immigration wise, you could also qualify as a Temporary Resident. Anybody immigrating to Canada planning on becoming a Permanent Resident without the intention of immediately staying in Canada, wouldn’t be considered a Settler because that person will be living outside Canada of an undetermined amount of time.

Former Residents are essentially Canadians returning to resume residence in Canada. You might be a government employee or contractor returning to the country after a stint overseas for a period of not less than one year. If you’ve established yourself as a resident of another country for a period of at least one year, you can always come back to Canada for return visits, as a non-resident, without affecting your former resident entitlement.

Make a list, check it twice.

You may want to make a list, ideally typewritten and in 2 copies, of all the goods you intend to bring into Canada. Include the value, make, model and when possible the serial number of all the goods. Divide the list into two sections: the goods you are bringing with you and in the second section, the goods to follow. The goods arriving later will only qualify for duty and tax-free importation under the entitlement as a settler or former resident if they’re on your original list.

As part of their duty and tax free entitlement, settlers and former residents can include quite a long list of items, namely clothing, furniture, appliances, books, musical instruments and much more. For the complete list, have a look at the CBSA’s website. Keep in mind though, that any single personal or household item that is worth more than CAN$10,000, on the date of importation is subject to applicable duty and taxes on the amount that is over the $10,000 threshold. Former residents get an additional personal exemption worth CAN$800 for goods they might have acquired abroad or while in transit.

When arriving, you’ll need to present your list at your first point of arrival in Canada to a CBSA officer. Based on your list, the officer will complete a Form B4, also known as the Personal Effects Accounting Document, assign you a file number and hand you a copy of the completed form as proof/receipt. Keep that form handy because you’ll need to reclaim your unaccompanied goods when they arrive and mostly, to ensure that you won’t need to pay any duty or taxes.

To save a bit of time, you can also fill out the Form B4 in advance of your arrival to your first point of entry to Canada. The Form B4 is available on the CBSA’s website here.

Being prepared is the key to ensuring a problem free return, or arrival, to Canada.

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