According to Statista, 37 percent of Canadian online shoppers prefer to only buy from domestic merchants, but 56 percent still prefer to shop from both domestic and cross-border online retailers.
Due to this demand, eCommerce SMBs can consider shipping to Canada to increase their revenues.
But before you start shipping internationally to Canada, it’s best to check and make sure that your product is not restricted or prohibited for import.
Importing to Canada: Restricted Items
If an item is restricted, it means that certain documentation must be provided before Canadian customs can release your parcel to its final destination.This may include, but are not limited to, proof of a license or certificate, and any required forms.
The following goods are currently on the restricted list:
- copyright works
- dead animals, including wild birds or their parts
- diamonds (rough)
- drugs and other controlled substances
- eggs, milk and other dairy products
- fish, game, meat, poultry, fruit, vegetables and their products
- intoxicating liquors
- liquids, liquefiable substances and powders
- live chicks, parasites, leeches, bees and bees' wax
- medical material, including specimens
- plants, seeds, fruits, bark, plant parts and soil
- seed potatoes, onions and other raw root crops
- wheat, straw, bran, chaff, barley and their products
You can visit the Canada Border Services Agency website for a complete and updated list of restricted items.
Note the following for these items:
Importing alcohol (including wine) is strictly prohibited unless it is being mailed to a Provincial Liquor Board or Commission, or to a manufacturer or distributor that is allowed to handle such beverages in Canada.
While cannabis is legal in Canada, it is strictly regulated. Importing cannabis in any form (including CBD oil) requires a permit or exemption from Health Canada, and these are issued under very limited circumstances and for limited purposes: medical, scientific, or industrial hemp. Cannabis imports will also be subjected to duty payments.
There are specific requirements to import vaping products into Canada, and they depend on the ingredients and/or purpose of the products. You can see this customs notice or visit Health Canada for more information.
Importing to Canada: Prohibited Items
If an item is prohibited, it means it is strictly not allowed to be imported into Canada. Prohibited items that arrive in customs may not be returned – Canadian customs has the right to seize and destroy the item.
The following goods are prohibited for import, and should never be shipped to Canada:
- bee-keeping apparatus, used
- chain letters and other literature pertaining to fraudulent schemes
- contraceptive devices and literature
- corrosives, nuclear substances or oxidizing substances
- counterfeit or imitation coins
- firearms, weapons and ammunition
- gold bullion, gold dust or non-manufactured metals
- hate propaganda
- live animals
- manufactured goods bearing insufficient markings or origin
- margarine or butter substitutes
- metallic labels
- obscene, immoral, indecent or scurrilous matter
- poisonous or infectious substances
- prison-made goods
- unlawful lottery tickets and advertising
For more details on items prohibited for import in Canada, visit the Canada Border Services Agency.
USPS Shipping Restrictions to Canada
There are USPS shipping restrictions for international shipments.
Restricted international items include:
- Medical devices
- Lithium batteries
- Medicine or drugs
Prohibited international items include:
- Air Bags
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Dry Ice
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
- Marijuana (medical or otherwise)
- Nail Polish
- Perfumes (containing alcohol)
Visit USPS’ Shipping Restrictions page for the most updated information.
As for USPS-specific shipping restrictions to Canada, the following should be noted:
- Certain items cannot be insured. This includes bees, postage stamps and albums where they are mounted, and parcels addressed to Canadian military post offices.
- A local telephone number may be required. If you are shipping a parcel to a post office box address using the Priority Mail Express International service, a local telephone number for the addressee MUST be provided. However, if it’s being sent to a street address, providing a local phone number is not required but would be helpful.
For additional details on USPS shipping restrictions to Canada, visit their Country Conditions for Mailing site.
UPS Shipping Restrictions to Canada
Here are some UPS shipping restrictions to be aware of if you plan on using their services to ship to Canada.
- UPS cannot deliver to a PO Box address.
- Paintball markers / paintball guns and air soft guns are prohibited by UPS for importation unless you have been approved through the International Special Commodity (ISC) program as a Special Exception.
- Products made in Iran are prohibited by UPS due to a current embargo.
- Maximum weight per parcel is 150 lbs (70 kg).
- Maximum length per parcel is 107.9 inches (274 cm).
- Maximum dimensions per parcel is 165 inches (419 cm) - length and girth combined
Note that the above applies to shipments coming from the United States and may not apply to other origin countries. For specific restrictions from a different origin country, visit UPS’ Import/Export Country Regulations page.
FedEx Shipping Restrictions to Canada
Here are some FedEx shipping restrictions to be aware of if you plan on using their services to ship to Canada.
- Personal shipments of alcohol and tobacco
- Hemp products such as cosmetics, clothing, food, etc. containing Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)
- Ammunition of any kind
- Animals that have been mounted
- Dangerous Goods
- Cut flowers
- Shipments that may cause damage to, or delay of, equipment, personnel or other shipments
- Shipments that require any special license or permit for transportation, importation or exportation
- Electronic Cigarettes that contains nicotine, propylene glycol and other chemicals listed on the Canadian Food and Drug controlled substance list
Visit FedEx’s Canada Prohibited and Restricted Items for the full list of items.
Managing Shipping Restrictions to Canada
If your business is selling a restricted item on Canada’s import list, it’s still possible to import as long as you’re willing to get the right licenses and permits, and submit the required paperwork for each shipment.
The Canada Border Services Agency has this great resource that lists every step needed to import commercial goods into Canada. You also have the option of hiring a customs broker, a professional that stays up-to-date with all import regulations, and can help you clear your goods through customs.
For additional information on shipping to Canada, visit our dedicated country page for Canada. You can also learn more about the Canadian eCommerce landscape and the best shipping and mailing services to Canada in our blog post.