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Importing From Canada Into the U.S.

If you are importing products from Canada into the United States, you should be aware of the specific requirements for the process. For shipments being imported by truck, you will need the Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) number.


Even though Canada borders the U.S., importing from Canada still comes with a multitude of requirements. This means that when you place your order for that cool new product, get yourself prepared in advance to handle the import process – a few preparatory steps will greatly expedite the delivery of your cargo and help you avoid some common pitfalls.

If you are having your shipment flown into the U.S. from Canada, the importing process will be the same as it would be for air shipments from any other country.

If you expect to transport your shipment across the border by truck, you will need one extra piece of information: the Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) number.

The PAPS number

This PAPS number is used by U.S. Customs as a shipping control number (SCN) and by Customs brokers to clear shipments crossing borders by truck through Customs. It is also noted in the trucker’s shipment manifest which provides details on all the shipments that trucker will be driving into the U.S. This manifest is submitted to U.S. Customs prior to the trucker’s arrival, so that they know what will be crossing the border.

When your trucker picks up your shipment from your supplier, your supplier should request the PAPS number and send it to you along with the other documentation needed for your shipment to clear Customs, such as the commercial invoice, truck waybill, etc.

Then, send the documentation with the PAPS number to your customs broker as soon as the shipment is picked up. Your broker must file the entry with Customs before the truck arrives at the border.

Additionally, some truckers may bring the shipment past the Customs border checkpoint for clearance at a warehouse closer to the final destination under an Immediate Transportation (IT) arrangement. However, this process may delay your shipment and involve additional fees ranging from $45 – $100 for filing and handling the IT.

Is your Canadian import duty-free?

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), goods made entirely in Canada (and Mexico) may be duty-free. However, your vendor must provide proof of origin in the form of a NAFTA Certificate of Origin and your goods must be marked with the country of origin (just as they would if they originate from any other country; read more about marking requirements here). If you aren’t sure if your goods qualify for NAFTA, you may contact CBP at the border crossing or reach out to Flexport for guidance.

Customs also has an official, in-depth publication on NAFTA here.

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