Snowbird FAQs is a forum where we provide answers to some of the most common and interesting questions we receive from Snowbird Advisor members that we feel will be of interest to other members.
We will be heading home to Canada from the U.S. soon. How do I find out what I can bring back to Canada?
LAST UPDATED: April 11, 2023
For snowbirds returning to Canada, it can be very confusing to figure out what you can - and cannot - bring across the border.
Many goods are restricted or prohibited, while others have limits on how much you can bring back to Canada. Then there’s the matter of how much duty and tax you’ll have to pay, depending on what you’re bringing back.
And to make things even more complex, the rules can change from time to time and temporary restrictions can be put in place for some goods due to health and safety concerns.
Fortunately, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have a number of resources available online to review prior to coming home so you can plan accordingly:
- What you can bring home to Canada
- Travelling with pets, food or plants
- Bringing food into Canada for personal use
- Maximum quantity limits for personal use exemption
- Estimate duty and taxes on items you are bringing back to Canada
If you can’t find the information you are looking for online, you can also contact the CBSA by phone or email with your question:
I understand that using ArriveCAN is no longer mandatory when returning to Canada.
So, is there any point or advantage to continue submitting my information through ArriveCAN before clearing customs in Canada?
LAST UPDATED: April 11, 2023 - 12:00 PM EST
Yes, if you are travelling by air, there is absolutely a good reason to still fill submit your customs declaration through ArriveCAN before clearing customs when returning to Canada.
Most travellers think of the ArriveCAN app as a COVID-era tool where travellers entering Canada were required to submit the results of their pre-entry COVID tests and their proof of vaccination certificates.
However, the app has evolved since then and while it is no longer used for those purposes, travellers entering Canada at select airports still have the option to submit their customs declarations in advance through ArriveCAN.
If you are arriving in Canada by air, using ArriveCAN can greatly speed up clearing customs and immigration, as many Canadian airports have set up an express line for people who have completed ArriveCAN ahead of time.
ArriveCAN is only available at select airports across Canada. You can find a list of participating ArriveCAN airports here.
*Please Note: If you are a NEXUS card holder, you may not be able to submit your customs information using ArriveCAN and will have to use NEXUS instead.
You can learn more about ArriveCAN and how to use it here.
I've heard that some Canadians are driving their cars down to their winter homes and getting around the current U.S. border closure by giving fake reasons to border officers about why their travel is essential.
Is this actually happening? If so, what are the consequences if you get caught lying at the border?
We have heard anecdotal stories about individuals trying to cross the border (some successfully, some unsuccessfully) by lying about the nature of their travel so it would qualify as "essential". However, we have not been able to verify any of these stories yet.
Be aware that even if you don't get caught lying at the border, both the U.S. and Canada are sending officials to follow up on people after they cross the border to confirm that the reason and circumstances they provided for crossing the border are in fact true.
If you are caught giving false information to U.S. border officials, you could be banned from the U.S. for a period of 5 years or more.
The bottom line - lying to any customs or border official is always a very bad idea - and especially now while the Canada-U.S. border is closed to all non-essential travel.
Can I take any food from Canada to the U.S. if I am crossing the border by car using my NEXUS card?
When you cross the border by car with a NEXUS card, you are often not asked any questions about food or what you are carrying with you, as the NEXUS system works on trust (Trusted Traveller).
And while you are allowed to bring certain foods into the U.S. when using your NEXUS card, the onus is on YOU to declare if you have any food with you.
If you have food and you don't declare it, and a U.S. customs officer decides to inspect your vehicle and discovers the food, they can revoke your NEXUS card, even if the food you have with you would have otherwise been allowed into the U.S.
The safest solution is not to take any food with you when entering the U.S. and stop after you have crossed the border for snacks, fruit etc...
Remember, when you are issued a NEXUS card you are warned that if you violate any of the rules, you risk losing your NEXUS card.
You can find more information about what you can and can't bring to the U.S. from Canada here.
We will be driving home to Canada from California soon. We love the food down here including the fresh fruits and vegetables. Can you please let us know what we are allowed to bring back to Canada in terms of food?
Generally speaking, you can bring limited quantities of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat products and some other food items across the border from the United States to Canada.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the rules vary from product to product and can change at any time due to potential threats. There may also be restrictions depending on where the product was produced and which province you are returning to.
It’s also essential to know that Canadian law requires travellers to declare all food, plants, animals and related products when entering Canada.
To be safe, you should always declare all food items you are bringing in to Canada. In some cases, these items may be confiscated if they are restricted or prohibited
If you have a Nexus card and you fail to declare food you are bringing with you, you could lose your card, even if the item is allowed into Canada!
Some common food items you need to declare that may be restricted or prohibited include:
- meat and meat products
- cream, milk, cheese and other dairy products
- fruits and vegetables
- seeds and nuts
For more details about bringing food into Canada from the U.S., visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.