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Preparing for CBSA’s Single Window Initiative

Posted September 11, 2018

A new modernization effort being rolled by the Canada Border Services Agency called the Single Window Initiative (SWI) promises to streamline the customs clearance process by enabling companies to provide all of the regulatory information required at the time of importation in one electronic declaration. While businesses can be expected to benefit from changes being made in connection with this initiative, the gains will however be balanced somewhat by a significant increase in the amount of data that will be required electronically for some goods.

First introduced several years ago as part of the sweeping Beyond the Border Action Plan that, among other things, aims to speed the flow of commercial goods between Canada and the United States, SWI is designed to help meet this key objective by eliminating needless redundancies which currently exist in the import processing procedure for certain commodities that are regulated by other government departments.

Other Government Departments

In addition to collecting import duties and administering Canada’s various customs reporting requirements at the border, the CBSA also assists various other federal government departments and agencies to administer and enforce legislation and regulations on their behalf. For example, reducing the risk of introducing invasive foreign plant or animal species into the country is maintained through the reporting regulations and cargo inspection procedures of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Other branches of the federal government, representing nearly 40 different programs, that are working in conjunction with CBSA on the new initiative are referred to as Participating Government Agencies (PGAs) and include the following:

  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
  • Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)
  • Transport Canada (TC)
  • Health Canada (HC)
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)
  • Public Health Agency Canada (PHAC)
  • Global Affairs Canada (GAC)
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)
  • Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)
  • Document Image Functionality (DIF) for the Licenses, Permits, Certificates and Other (LPCO)

Changes From the Current Process: Integrated Import Declaration

Under the existing Accelerated Commercial Release Operations Support System (ACROSS) process for releasing goods regulated and controlled by other government departments, customs declarations contain various information such as the name of the vendor and importer, product description, country of origin/manufacture, value, currency of settlement, etc. While CBSA shares this data with other government departments, not all of the information needed for their specific regulatory purposes is listed in the declaration and therefore additional shipment details in the form of permits and/or certificates are usually called for.

The Single Window Initiative seeks to eliminate the problem of submitting duplicate information to different government agencies by providing a more robust, integrated solution called the Integrated Import Declaration (IID), which is a single electronic transmission comprising ALL of the shipment details required by both the CBSA and PGAs.

Under the new SWI import process, CBSA will transmit information about commodities that are subject to PGA requirements captured from the integrated declaration to the applicable government department or agency. In cases where release of the goods is contingent on the PGA’s approval, this information sharing will occur prior to clearance, but in other situations it may take place afterwards. When the data is provided to the other government department prior to clearance, the PGA will assess it to determine whether the goods are eligible for import and provide CBSA with a release decision, which in turn is then transmitted to the freight carrier.


Customs brokers and self-filing importers are expected to have completed their systems testing and be certified to transmit shipment information via the SWI integrated declaration by no later than January 1, 2019.

Effective April 1, 2019, the existing ACROSS release service options processes for commodities regulated by other government departments will be decommissioned and the IID will become the only electronic release request option available for these types of shipments.

It is important to note that in view of these changes to the release process, once the SWI has been fully implemented, if all of the required information/paperwork is not provided for a shipment carrying PGA-regulated goods into Canada, the entry filer will be unable to submit an integrated declaration for the shipment, which could result in customs clearance being delayed.

Getting Ready for SWI - What You Can Do

GHY International has already completed systems onboarding with the new program, so clients can rest assured that transition to the CBSA’s modernization initiative will be as transparently seamless as possible. Additionally, we have been reaching out to companies that routinely import PGA-regulated goods to advise about the increased amount of data that will soon be needed electronically for some commodities and encouraging them to share the specific additional data elements or paperwork (licenses and/or permits) with us prior to implementation.

Should we not yet have made contact in this regard and you have any questions or concerns about the Single Window Initiative, or if you want to know more about clearing goods with SWI’s new integrated declaration, please do not hesitate to CONTACT us.

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