Canada Imports: Prohibited and Restricted Goods

Canada Imports: Prohibited and Restricted Goods
Trade Talk Blog • May 24, 2023

s an importer, you want to ensure that all of your goods are compliant with the regulations set out by government organizations. There are specific prohibited and restricted goods that need to be taken into consideration for a successful shipment. Knowing which items fall under these categories and understanding the various Customs controls used by Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is important when importing merchandise from abroad. In this blog post, we will discuss exactly what constitutes prohibited and restricted goods upon entering Canada, as well as the CBSA standards and procedures related to imports.

Why some goods are prohibited from entering Canada

Canada is a nation that holds the safety, security, and well-being of its citizens in high regard. As such, many goods are prohibited from entering the country to ensure the safety of Canadians and protect the environment. Some prohibited items include weapons such as firearms, explosives, and certain kinds of ammunition. Additionally, some medications such as narcotics, psychotropic substances, and drugs that Health Canada has not approved are prohibited from entering Canada. Some food products like fresh fruit and vegetables can be restricted from entering due to the potential risk of introducing invasive species and pests into Canada’s ecosystems.

Furthermore, other goods, such as counterfeit or pirated items, can be seized at the border if they enter Canada illegally. These goods may seriously threaten public health or safety or interfere with trade measures or agreements between countries or regions. Ultimately, it is important to know what kind of goods can and cannot come into Canada to prevent potentially damaging items from entering the country.

What are prohibited goods?

Prohibited goods are items that cannot be imported into Canada to safeguard the safety and security of Canada and its citizens. Goods such as obscene material, hate propaganda, child pornography, counterfeit coins, and goods made by prisoners intended for sale by a person or firm will not cross Canadian borders.

Other prohibited items include:

  • Firewood
  • Weapons such as tasers, brass knuckles, pepper spray, and certain knives
  • Radar detectors
  • Soil

What are restricted goods?

Restricted goods are those that require a license or permit to enter Canada. They include food, weapons, and vehicles, each of which has its own regulations before being released by customs. These items should meet a list of requirements to go through customs.

Restricted food

Food items such as nuts, grains, seeds, fresh fruits or vegetables, and dried foods are regulated by the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS). The system helps importers determine the paperwork and documentation needed to import their goods based on an item’s Harmonized System code, origin, destination, and end-use. After inputting all the required and accurate information, importers are presented with a complete list of Documentation and Registration Requirements. However, the system is used as a reference only, and importers are advised to consult the National Import Service Centre for additional information.

Restricted firearms

Importing restricted firearms into Canada requires a Possession and Acquisition Licence, Canadian Firearm Registration Certificate OR Form RCMP 5589, Authorization to transport, and a fee of CAN$25.00. A list of all forms needed to import firearms can be found here.

Restricted firearms include most handguns, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that are capable of discharging center-fire ammunition, have barrels between 105 mm (4.14 inches) and 470 mm (18.5 inches) long, and are not otherwise prohibited, and firearms designed or adapted to be fired when reduced to a length of less than 660 mm (26 inches) by folding, telescoping or other means.

Restricted vehicles

The Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) regulates vehicles imported into Canada. Requirements to import a vehicle can be lengthy, and importers should compile all relevant information, such as vehicle information, point of entry, and CBSA entry requirements, to determine the vehicle’s eligibility and expected duties and tax.

What’s the difference between prohibited and restricted goods?

Prohibited goods are those that will not be allowed entry into Canada under any circumstances. These goods will be seized at the border, and importers may be fined and penalized. Restricted goods, on the other hand, can be imported if the importer acquires the necessary licenses and permits. Regulations for restricted goods vary depending on their type and may change over time. Therefore, importers should keep up with requirement changes that could affect their import status.

What happens when CBSA holds my goods?

In the case of false or incomplete declarations, or failure to declare goods, CBSA may seize the goods or subject you to an Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMPS). For some goods, CBSA may allow you to pay a fine and have some goods returned to you. There are, however, goods that will not be returned to importers if they are not declared, such as tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, and firearms. CBSA officers may also seize vehicles used to import goods illegally, and importers must pay a fine before the vehicle is returned to them.

Steps to determine the admissibility of imported goods

To determine whether imported goods are prohibited or restricted from entry into Canada, importers should:

    • Compile all necessary information on the imported goods, including a detailed description, composition information, the origin, and intended use in Canada. This information is used to determine the tariff classification of the goods needed to establish duty rates.
    • Decide if they will hire a licensed customs broker. Customs brokers will usually assist by:
      • Obtaining the release of the imported goods
      • Paying any duties that may apply on your behalf
      • Obtaining, preparing, and presenting or transmitting the necessary documents or data
      • Maintaining records
      • Responding to any CBSA concerns after payment


When bringing goods into Canada, it is important to check if they are included under prohibited and restricted goods; if they are, knowing the necessary steps and precautions needed will prove beneficial in helping those goods succeed in crossing the border. Researching thoroughly and understanding all necessary steps before beginning the importing process is important. Ignorance of the law does not excuse the violation of standards and regulations set by Canadian authorities. According to customs and trade regulations enforcement agencies, violators may face fines and penalties. Keeping up with changing rules can be challenging, so working with a licensed customs broker is advised to help you navigate import regulations and restrictions.

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