Other than China, Canada is the US’s largest trading partner. And since China has a population that is 40 times larger (1.4 billion more citizens) than Canada, some could reasonably consider Canada to be our largest trading partner. We exchange over $500,000,000,000 in goods with Canada each year. Because of this close relationship, shipping across the border to Canada is not particularly difficult. Furthermore, the US is Canada’s largest trading partner, accounting for 75% of all of their exports. So, basically, if you properly document your contents, and don’t ship banned items, you should be fine.
Cheapest Way to Ship to Canada
Canada is an affordable international market to break into. A large portion of its population is near their southern border to the US and despite packages having to pass through customs and potentially being handed off to a different carrier, it is fairly quick, too. These are the most affordable ways to get your orders to your Canadian customers.
Under 3 LBs.
The USPS is generally the most affordable way to ship to Canada for light parcels. Once they reach the border, USPS hands the parcels over to Canada Post (the Canadian equivalent of USPS) for final delivery.
While First Class Mail International doesn’t have an estimated delivery timeframe, it can take about 2-3 weeks to make final delivery. Priority Mail International promises a 6 to 10-day delivery timeframe. Priority Mail Express International has a 3 to 5-day delivery timeframe.
Over 3 LBs
FedEx and UPS are great premium options for getting your parcels to Canada. They offer more day-definite delivery options when you ship to Canada. Generally, shipments to Canada take 2-7 days to reach final delivery. Cost-effective services that are similar to USPS Priority Mail are UPS Standard and FedEx International Ground. Under 3 lbs, these services tend to cost about $4 more than USPS. Keep in mind that this is in regards to the base rate provided by FedEx and UPS. It is possible that these rates will increase.
UPS and FedEx may charge additional fees on top of the delivery fees. These fees are not included in the initial rate. These fees may be due to improper packaging, oversized/awkwardly sized packaging, or exceeds a weight threshold.
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How to Create Customs Forms
As with all international shipments, parcels shipped to Canada require customs forms.
For the USPS, the customs declarations appear on the label. So, there is no additional documentation you need to provide beyond the label.
FedEx and UPS require commercial invoices for international shipments. While these forms are required, it is possible to submit these electronically via EDI and ETD. This is also true of shipping to Puerto Rico and other US territories with FedEx and UPS.
Canada does have a few regulations around guaranteeing public safety around imported goods. The CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) screens mail for trade facilitation, tariff rating, and examining for potentially prohibited or controlled goods. Parcels valued at over $20 CAD can be searched and have a handling fee applied to the end consumer (or payor if selected).
Items Prohibited from Shipping
Be aware that Canada Post will not ship certain items, so if you ship USPS, these banned items will not be able to be handed off to Canada Post.
- Tobacco items of any form (cigarettes, cigars, chewing/dipping tobacco, and ecigs) are prohibited.
- Live animals
- Canada post allows exceptions via special permitting for bees, day-old chicks/hatching eggs, parasites, leeches, and some other small cold-blooded animals.
- Certain plants are also prohibited, for an up to date list on prohibited flora, contact Canada Post directly.
- Currency, even antique coins (I suppose arcade tokens, too?)
- Packages that are wet or emit a foul odor (Well la-ti-da!)
- Lottery tickets or any other gambling items
- For a full list of prohibited, read this.