To carry out all details related to the importation of foreign goods, while adhering to all government regulations and agencies (i.e. Canada Border Services Agency, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Public Health Agency of Canada, etc.); and all internal McMaster University policies and procedures.


This procedure applies to all McMaster University importations.


McMaster University provides a central Customs service for all University faculties, departments and units. The Customs and Traffic Division is responsible for approving all imports whereby McMaster University is the “Importer of Record” (owner or purchaser of goods; legally responsible for payment of duty, taxes, fees, fines or penalties issued by Customs or other government departments). The Customs & Traffic Division will liaise with the University’s customs broker on behalf of the University to ensure accurate and timely clearance of goods entering Canada. The Customs and Traffic Division will provide advice and guidance to all individuals or departments importing goods into Canada.

The Customs and Traffic Division will voluntarily assess PST to the purchaser base on any applicable duty. Accounts Payable will voluntarily assess PST to the purchaser based on the supplier’s invoice. The Importer of Record is responsible for remitting any applicable GST to the government. GST will be assessed upon import into Canada by the respective importing agent (i.e. University’s customs broker, Canada Post).

It is the responsibility of the importing department or individual to ensure that any required Import Permits (link to Import Permits website) have been obtained prior to importation. Please ask your supplier to attach a copy of the Import Permit to the outside of their shipment. A copy of the Import Permit should also be provided to the Customs and Traffic Division prior to importation.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) implemented an Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS) on October 7, 2002. Importers who are not compliant are susceptible to substantial fines. All members of the University community must fully cooperate in the importation process in an effort to achieve both University and government compliance. Basically, CBSA wants to see that what was ordered, is what was declared to CBSA, and is what was received and paid for.

How Can We Avoid AMPS Penalties

All members of the University community must fully cooperate with the importation process in an effort to achieve both University and government compliance. Remember, compliance is a shared responsibility.

All imports must be 100% accurate with respect to the description, classification, valuation, quantity, condition of the goods (damaged?), overages and shortages. All discrepancies must be reported to the Customs and Traffic Division as the customs entry must be amended.

The Fair Market Value of the goods (including samples) must be declared. If you are aware of any supplier that undervalues any type of shipment, please notify them that this is not permitted by CBSA, and penalties may be assessed by CBSA to both the supplier and the University.

When accepting and signing for courier shipments, ensure that departmental staff is certain that the goods were ordered by the department, and the department will accept total liability for all potential charges related to the import including duty, taxes, and brokerage fees.


All shipments entering Canada must be cleared through Canada Border Services Agency. McMaster University’s contracted customs broker is FedEx Trade Networks (FTN), Tel: 905-677-7371,
Fax: 905-678-7169.

Shipments that are valued at $20.00 CAD or greater are assessed applicable duties and/or taxes and require a formal entry to be submitted for customs release. Shipments that are valued at less than $1600.00 CAD may be eligible for a more streamlined import process under the Courier/Low Value Shipment Program. Imports such as controlled or prohibited goods, or that require Other Government Department (OGD) approvals do not qualify for this type of entry. Shipments that are valued over $1600.00 CAD are not delivered until the goods have been released by CBSA.

Customs brokerage/taxes/duties will be shown on your Financial Accounting System statement under “FedEx Trade Networks”. The first reference number on your statement will be the Purchase Order number, if applicable. Otherwise, it will be the last 6 digits of the FedEx Trade Networks Invoice number.

Some imports may qualify for a lower rate of duty under a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Certificate of Origin. If so, a valid NAFTA Certificate of Origin must be completed and signed by the supplier and accompany the customs documents. Shipments without a valid NAFTA Certificate of Origin will be assessed the full rate of duty.

For customs purposes, a Canada Customs Invoice (CCI) or Commercial Invoice (CI) must be attached to the outside of the package in an envelope/pouch marked “Customs Documents Enclosed” or attached to the carrier’s waybill.

In order to expedite the customs clearance process, and in accordance with CBSA requirements, the invoice must include the following information for all types of imports (Purchase Orders, Credit Card Orders, Samples, Donations, Goods on Loan, Warranty/Non-Warranty Repairs/Replacements, etc.):

  • Complete shipper name and address;
  • Complete receiver address including name, department, building, room number, phone number and extension;
  • McMaster University Purchase Order number (if applicable);
  • For credit card orders, the supplier must reference your 10 digit McMaster account number
    (research/departmental/pda) as the Purchase Order number;
  • Detailed description of the goods (part number or catalogue number not acceptable). The description must include the composition of the goods (ie. plastic, steel) and be detailed enough to classify the goods;
  • identify if there are intellectual property considerations
  • Harmonized System (HS) tariff number for each item;
  • Quantity of Goods;
  • Fair Market Value of each item (excluding shipping and handling charges)
  • Currency;
  • Country of Manufacture;
  • NAFTA Certificate of Origin (if applicable).

Failure to reference the above noted information on the supplier’s documentation will result in customs clearance and delivery delays.

Personal Shipments

Personal shipments from outside Canada must not be sent to a University address. These types of shipments are not permissible by the University. The implications to the University are as follows:

  • personal shipments addressed to the University are considered to be the University’s responsibility by CBSA, including payment of all applicable duties, taxes and fees
  • failure to pay duties, taxes and fees on personal shipments could result in suspension of the University’s import privileges by CBSA
  • failure to file appropriate documentation and pay duties, taxes and fees could lead to AMPS fines against the University

Tracking Shipments

In order to track your shipment, please obtain the courier name, tracking number, and ship date from the supplier. In most instances, you can visit the respective courier’s website and track the shipment online.

Normally, customs clearance and delivery of goods is achieved within 48 hours from the arrival of the goods at the appropriate Canadian port. It is common to see the message “Regulatory Agency Clearance Delay” as the goods are waiting to clear customs. If clearance delays persist, email the courier’s name, tracking number and ship date to for additional assistance.

It is important to plan ahead for your shipments and make sure you leave ample time for possible clearance/delivery delays.

Business Visitors

  • The term “business visitors” includes, but is not limited to, individuals traveling to Canada to: meet with business contacts
  • provide after-sales service:
    • warranty service
    • fulfilling service contract
    • some installation activities

To determine the entry requirements for business visitors to Canada, please visit the Government of Canada (Canada International) website for additional information.

If goods are required for installation by a visiting technician, please ensure that the goods are received by the university prior to the technician’s arrival.


If you will be receiving a donation to the University, please contact the appropriate Advancement Officer at extension 24622 (University) or extension 22196 (Faculty of Health Sciences). All donations must be processed prior the receipt of the donation. Processing may take 4-8 weeks to complete.

For donated items, please instruct shippers to issue the following statement on letterhead “Donated To McMaster University”. The letter must also provide a full description of the goods, value (for customs purposes), and the country of manufacture.

Perishable Shipments

If you are ordering perishable items, please ensure that the supplier ships the goods on either a Monday or a Tuesday at the latest. This will ensure that the shipment can clear customs and be delivered before the weekend. Shipments must clear customs by Thursday afternoon in order to expedite delivery by Friday. Also, please keep in mind statutory holidays (both the shippers and the receivers).

The supplier must include sufficient refrigerant material (dry ice/ice packs etc.) to maintain the temperature of the shipment in transit (i.e. minimum 5 kg dry ice for shipments from the U.S., minimum 10 kg dry ice for all other international shipments).

Parcel Post Shipments

Shipments imported via the parcel post system that are valued less than $1600.00 CAD are delivered to campus Mail Services. A CBSA Postal Import Form (E14) is affixed by Canada Post which shows the applicable duties/taxes/handling fees. Mail Services removes the E14 copies and forwards them to the Customs & Traffic Division for review and payment from the respective department’s postal account.

Shipments imported via the parcel post system that are valued at $1600.00 CAD or over are held by Canada Post until the shipment clears customs. Therefore, departments will be notified by CBSA in writing if a shipment is awaiting customs clearance. Please forward this letter immediately to the Customs & Traffic Division and reference your 10 digit internal account number for payment of all applicable duties/taxes/handling fees. Our office will then initiate the customs clearance for your shipment. Once it has cleared customs, the shipment will be delivered to your department.

Parcel Post charges will be shown on your Financial Accounting System statement under “Canada Post”. The first reference number on your statement will be the last 6 digits of the inventory number as shown on the CBSA Postal Import Form that is attached to the outside of the package.

Live Animals

All importations of live animals must be purchased through the Central Animal Facility, Health Sciences Centre, Room 1U50, extension 22366.

Radioactive Shipments

All importations of radioactive materials must be approved by Health Physics, Nuclear Research Building, Room 114, extension 23365.

Conventions, Meetings, Trade Shows and Exhibitions

For additional information please visit the Canada Border Services Agency website.

Wood Packaging Materials

The importation of wood packaging materials produced in all areas other than the continental United States is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). These requirements include entry for all wood packaging materials such as pallets, crating and dunnage. For additional information, please visit the CFIA website.