Getting Ready For The Single Window Initiative |'s Blog on Customs Brokerage and News Updates

Getting Ready For The Single Window Initiative

What is the single window initiative?

The Single Window Initiative (SWI) is a recent implementation by the CBSA intended to modernize import processing. It offers a better alignment of the Canadian and U.S. importing processes and allows importers to provide all required import information electronically. All the required data will be shared between Participating Government Agencies (PGAs), the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), and the Government of Canada in one electronic transmission submitted to the CBSA. The CBSA will act as a single windowto all the other agencies that require the import information. The purpose is to create a streamlined and simplified way of complying with the government import regulations. It will also help reduce the import risks by allowing the CBSA to better identify goods with specific import requirements, validate permits and take non-compliant goods off the market.

This initiative came in response to calls from the trade community. Previously, many documents were submitted on paper and PGA requirements were addressed separately. The removal of the paper-burden simplifies documentation and reduces waste. Additionally, one streamlined import process can improve the knowledge importers have on PGA regulations and reduce the amount of time spent submitting documents.

When is the Single Window Initiative being implemented?

The Single Window Initiative has been on importers’ minds since all the way back in 2015, when it was first launched by the CBSA. In December 2017, the program roll out began. To give Canadians time to get everything ready, the CBSA announced that implementation and onboarding should be completed on January 1st, 2019. A full integration to the SWI system was intended for April 1st, 2019 when existing service options (PARS and RMD) would be retired.

However, Canadians needed more time! The CBSA recognized that the system changes were difficult to put in practice for most of the people. Importers felt that these kinds of changes would be time consuming and costly, and the CBSA recognized that the Single Window Initiative couldn’t happen with the snap of a finger. As a result, the old service options were not retired in April as planned. For now, Canadian importers can still use them, but many importers and customs brokers have already fully integrated the SWI system. There are now some traders and a few PGA’s that only deal with the SWI system, causing some delays and discrepancies for importers who have yet to make the move to SWI. If you haven’t started adopting SWI practices, now is a good time to start. The new integration deadline is set for October 2019.


What is the Single Window Initiative changing?

The new system requires Integrated Import Declarations (IIDs). To get IIDs ready, importers will need to provide all information before or at importation. In the past, some documents could be sent to the appropriate PGA afterwards. Additionally, many of these documents were previously on paper and could be faxed. If you use a customs broker, you’ll need to provide more information up front to your customs broker than you might be used to. 

For some agencies, such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), not much will change. The CFIA has always required importers to provide a substantial amount of import information upfront. For other agencies, you might see significant increases to the amount of information you have to provide. The silver lining is that once you’ve adjusted to the new process, you’ll be submitting everything at once and the CBSA will take care of the rest.

To find out exactly what you’ll need, visit the CBSA website. Each of the following Single Window Initiative Participating Government Departments have their requirements listed, so identify which PGA regulates the goods you import.


If this process still seems confusing, we’re here to help. We can get you started on the Single Window Initiative process or walk you through it so you can do it yourself. We have an expert team of brokers who are well versed in the SWI system and are ready to help you with all of your import and export needs.