Shipping Cross-Border to Canada, Eh?

Posted by Harriet Mills on Jun 17, 2021 4:37:16 PM

Cross Border Shipping


Cross-border freight movement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was affected by the global pandemic just as much as the rest of the world. In 2020, overall freight was down by 13% compared with 2019. If you are looking at just truck Canadian truck freight, it declined by 10% during that same timeframe.

But in 2021, things seem to be getting back on track. The concept of reshoring and near-shoring has gained popularity after commodity shortages along with inventory deficits spurred on a sourcing frenzy to find vendors closer to home. 2020 taught us the full risks of offshoring in the supply chain, and it has many companies making changes. 

Canada is the second-largest trade partner to the United States. In April alone, this northern neighbor traded a total of $56.2 billion dollars with us--an increase of 76.2% from April 2020.

Canada exports

Cross-border transit is second nature to shippers who do it all the time, but for companies or individuals just starting out, there is a lot to know about how the process works. 

Both sides of this manmade boundary want to know exactly what the other has coming and going. Documentation is essential and planning is key to every successful cross-border shipment. 

The rules vary between shipments entering Canada and shipments entering the U.S. so understanding what is expected will save you from delays and headaches down the road. 

In short, there are six things you will need to send your freight across the border. 

Get the Cross-Border Shipping Guide

One of the first things we recommend a shipper do is find a reputable customs broker. Make sure they are licensed and that they understand your timeframe and what you are shipping. A customs broker's responsibilities include the following:

  • Acting on your behalf for the transport of goods across borders by being the expert and explaining customs laws and required compliance to their clients.
  • To submit all the documentation necessary to clear the goods that are entering the country.
  • Most customs brokers will pay the duties and fees for you, and then bill you later. Duties and fees are due within 10 working days of entering the country.
  • Record keeping: In the U.S. it is the customs broker’s responsibility to keep all documentation for at least five years after the date of entry.
  • Staying up to date on the latest changes and updates to customs-related laws and regulations for the areas they serve.

Gathering the documentation you will need to provide ahead of time will make the process much easier. The requirements include many of the same documents necessary for domestic shipping, plus a few more. Here are the following items you must have:

Bill of Lading

Need step-by-step instructions on completing a Bill of Lading for cross-border shipments between the U.S. and Canada?

  1. If your shipment is not prepaid, then check the "collect."
  2. Fill out the shipper info in detail - do not leave out any information.
  3. Fill in the "Consignee" information.
  4. The "Bill-to" information only needs to be filled out if it is different from the shipper information.
  5. Enter the Customs Broker information 
  6. Fill out the "Commodity" information. This step is important and there are guidelines regarding what is acceptable and what is not. If you are not sure, go to
  7. Details on the content are important. The number of shipping units should be entered as the lowest external packaging unit. It is NOT acceptable to use FAK, general merch, # of pallets, miscellaneous merchandise, or consolidated freight. Make sure you indicate if the shipment contains hazardous materials. Include the NMFC number, shipment class and weight.

Team Canada Logo_color box

Certificate of Origin

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, "In order to claim preferential tariff treatment under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), a certification of origin is required. this documentation is only relevant to a shipment that qualifies for preferential tariffs. Click here for help FAQs regarding certificates of origin. 


Packing Slip

The Cross-Border Institute, a center for research in cross-border logistics and security, points out that, "As your goods will be handled by different logistics and transportation providers, the packing list functions as a verification tool to make sure all goods are accounted for and reach their final destination."

The packing slip includes basic and essential information about  your shipment, such as contents, total number of packages, and weight. It is also used as a two-step verification tool: by comparing the packing slip's information with other cross-border documentation, such as the commercial invoice, it acts as confirmation of the goods in tow.  

Customs Invoice (Canada)

The customs invoice, also known as the CCI, is used when the type of shipment is defined as commerical and the value is over $2,500 CAD. The shipment must also be subject to tax and duties. This document is the basis from which the
buyer or importer pays the vendor or exporter.

If it is filled out incorrectly, or not filled out at all and it is required, your shipment will most likely get held up at the border. This link will tell you how to fill out the Canada Customs Invoice in detail (see Appendix A).

Choptank Transport is Here to Help

Jesus Cruz is in charge of Team Canada at Choptank. His group of professional cross-border logistics coordinators ship to Canada daily and are familiar with what can go wrong and how to mitigate risks. Here are some tips from our Team Canada department to keep your cross-border freight moving! 

  • Make sure you have all customs documentation, shipping docs, and all other necessary paperwork ready PRIOR to your freight’s pick up.
  • Using the option to pre-clear orders with customs using carriers PAPS/PARS and port of entry –is a tremendous help at the border, making it a much quicker process for the driver when they arrive.
  • In addition to the documentation, make sure you have all the broker contact information and shipment tracking information available to allow communication with customs ready if needed.

Have questions? Don't hesitate to reach out at