UPDATED January 2013
We Canadians are a friendly lot, and we love to receive figs from our friends in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.
I know it can be a little intimidating to send stuff "across the border", but it really is quite safe and convenient. I have prepared the following guide to assist in the process. If you have any questions/comments, feel free to drop me a note.
I. The Customs Form:
A) Customs Declaration CN22 (known in the US as PS 2976)
This is the form that you will fill out to send items to Canada. The form is basically identical for shipments from the United Kingdom and the United States, as it is part of an international convention. This form is used for shipments valued under $400 US / £270 GBP and that weigh under 4 lbs. It usually takes the form of a sticker, with green on it as below, but may appear slightly different. Regardless, the same information appears.
United States version:
United Kingdom version:
A few things you should know.
Items exchanged on Bartertown will generally fall under the category of "Other". Books are NOT Documents. If you are receiving something for your item, it is NOT a Gift.
2. Quantity and detailed description of contents (1)
Toys, Games, and Books are all DUTY FREE when you send them to Canada. Mark your packages accordingly. Indicating that an item is USED is also a good idea.
Space Marine Terminators = Used Toy Soldiers
Space Marine Codex = Used Toy Game Book
Bitz = Used Toy Parts
WHFB Perilous Quest Scenario Pack = Used Game
"Miniatures", "Warhammer", "Rules", and other such accurate but overly descriptive terms can create confusion on the part of the customs agent. "Porcelain Miniatures", for example, are NOT Duty Free (as I found out to the tune of $30 when a customs agent misinterpreted "miniature figurines").
3. Weight (2)
The post office will have a scale. Use it. Do not guess. The postal clerk will sometimes be the person that performs this action.
4. Value (3)
In order to make insurance claims and to act lawfully, the value marked should reflect the value agreed upon with the buyer, ie what the buyer paid for it. If it is a trade, make your best guess as to the value (MSRP, etc). Under-reporting value is a) illegal and b) makes it harder should there be a problem with the shipment. The value will be in the currency of the sender's country.
When handwriting value on the form, DO NOT use the format $50.00. Use $50 instead. Avoiding decimals means that the recipient will not be accidentally charged tax on $5000. If your item's value is $14.75, do everyone a favour and round it off.
The following values are of note when mailing items into Canada:
$20 - packages valued at $20CDN or less will NOT be assessed duty or taxes.
$60 - GIFTS valued at $60CDN or less will not be assessed Duty or Taxes. If you are TRADING or SELLING/BUYING, the goods involved will not qualify as a gift.
Other general considerations:
Make sure you PRINT CLEARLY. No one wants a lost package, or a wrong address delivery. Make sure the Postal Code and the Street Address are correct. Make sure your own Return Address is complete and correct, in case the package, for whatever reason, comes back to you.
B) Customs Declaration CP72 (known in the US as PS 2976-A) or CN23 (United Kingdom)
This form is used for shipments valued $400 US / £270 GBP or more, or that weigh over 4 lbs. This form is designed for more "commercial" type items, and hence has space for more details. Again, it can vary slightly in appearance.
United States version:
United Kingdom version:
Most options are the same as above, but there are a few differences worth noting.
1. Checkbox (5):
Again, items exchanged on Bartertown will generally fall under the category of "Other". Unless you are a store selling items, declaring income, and paying the relevant taxes on your side of the border, you should not select "Merchandise".
2. Non-deliverable (10):
Make sure that you select "Return to Sender".
3. Importer's Telephone (16):
It is good practice to exchange phone numbers with your trade partner, and you should include it on the form as requested.
4. Commercial Senders (20) and (21) [US]; (7) and (8) [UK]:
Again, unless you are operating a store etc, do not fill in this section.
II. Duty and Taxes:
Duty is an amount charged by a domestic government on items brought into the country from a foreign country. Generally, it is designed to protect local industries, or to discourage the import of various types of goods. Various trade arrangements, including NAFTA, govern goods being brought into Canada from other countries. There are, however, some general rules that apply to all goods.
As noted in I, Toys, Games, and Books are Duty Free. This covers that vast majority of items exchanged on Bartertown. It is worth reviewing the documentation on the relevant websites if you have an item you are unsure about.
In order to pay for things like free (if slow) health care and Quebec, the Federal and Provincial governments charge a number of consumption taxes. These are charged to the END USER of a product: you and me. However, if an item is USED, the assumption is that a consumption tax has already been paid, and the receiver MAY not be assessed again.
Even if an item is DUTY FREE, the receiver may be charged TAXES.
GST (Goods and Services Tax) and (usually) PST (Provincial Sales Tax), or HST (Harmonized Sales Tax), can be charged on items valued at over $20 CDN. In addition, if you are assessed an amount to be paid, Canada Post charges a $9.95 CDN Handling Fee, which is annoying, but small compared to every other carrier. More on that later.
Taxes are hit and miss. I've been charged tax on $40 packages and not on $100 packages.
IN SUMMARY: Identifying the pre-painted Space Marine Dreadnought you are mailing as USED GAME PARTS or a USED TOY will help ensure that the receiver pays the appropriate amount of duty and taxes: none.
III. Choice of Carrier:
A) From the United States:
1. United States Postal Service:
USPS has an extremely good record for packages mailed to Canada. Choose either First Class International, which is the cheapest, or Priority International.
First Class International:
By far the cheapest service, this service is only available for smaller items, weighing no more than 4 lbs. On the down side, there is NO insurance option, though it can be Registered for an additional fee. As of 2013, this service has become considerably more expensive, but remains at least marginally cheaper in most cases.
A 1lb box will ship to Canada for roughly $11.00.
I use this shipping method for small, low value items that, if lost, are not a huge deal. I do NOT recommend this method for trades between members without established trading histories or who are not 100% confident in their trade partner.
- PRICE: Cheapest of various services. Based on weight and destination.
- INSURANCE: None.
- TRACKING: None, BUT - may be registered for extra charge. Also, customs number may enable you to see when it hits various points along the way.
Priority Mail International:
More expensive, this service has a number of key advantages for people shipping small, heavy, potentially valuable things. Like toy soldiers. The Flat Rate Boxes are an excellent option; you can fit a lot of figs in a Small Flat Rate Box, and it ships for $19.95. Medium is $40.95 and Large is $53.95. There are also a variety of envelopes available.
Priority Mail International is Trackable, which is excellent for both shipper and receiver, and also has a built in Indemnity (insurance). Extra insurance is available for a couple of dollars extra--high value items SHOULD BE INSURED.
Any time you have a package shipped, it is worth getting the seller to inquire about shipping options at the counter.
Depending on a variety of circumstances, the actual rate may turn out to be cheaper than the estimated rate online.
Speaking of online, it is easy for US residents to set up an online account and print shipping forms at home. It saves some money on postage to go this way.
- PRICE: More expensive, but not outrageous. However, various FLAT RATE boxes exist -- if it fits, it ships. The Small Flat Rate box is under $20.00.
- INSURANCE: Yes. Some insurance is included in the base price; additional insurance is inexpensive to add.
- TRACKING: Yes, with some exceptions. Regardless, the customs form number may be used to trace the parcel as it is dropped off, moves to and through customs, and finally to delivery with confirmation.
UPS charges offensive handling surcharges, which you see at
Beware of this fee! It can represent a huge, unpleasant surprise when your package arrives. You may be able to avoid paying this fee if you request to "broker the package" yourself. This may require a personal trip to your customs office, which may or may not be inconvenient for you.
In addition, if you have the package sent to your home, and you are not there to receive it, it can often be an arduous journey to the UPS depot.
However, it is possible that UPS rates on large packages will be cheaper than other carriers.
Fed-Ex can also charge brokerage fees, but service from them is usually a little easier to work out.
B) From the United Kingdom:
1. Royal Mail:
Royal Mail has a very similar sort of service level to USPS. Plus, it's approved by the Queen. Fancy!
The Royal Mail provides a number of options for shipping to Canada, but only a handful are worthy of serious consideration here.
Available in three options, Letter, Printed Papers, and Small Packets. If you're shipping bitz, you might get away with Letter, but otherwise you're looking at Printed Papers or Small Packets. Printed Papers includes books etc, but for models and such, Small Packets is where it's at.
The weight limit tops out at 2kg, which is quite a few figs, but fewer books than you might think.
This service is not tracked, but does carry an indemnity (insurance) for values up to 41 GBP.
This is an economical, reliable, and fast service. Items from the UK often move through customs faster than those from the US, for unknown reasons.
International Signed For:
Marginally more expensive than Airmail, and with the same subclasses, this service provides tracking (within UK only, so useless), delivery confirmation (useful), and 41 GBP of insurance, though for even slightly more money, a much higher insurance value (up to 500 GBP) is available.
The weight limit is max 2kg.
If you are sending something reasonably valuable, this is a good, cheap upgrade from Airmail.
Faster and more expensive, Airsure provides priority position to your package (first available space on a plane), tracking, and delivery confirmation. For lighter items, it is very expensive compared to Airmail, but only slightly more so than International Signed For. Compensation is included up to 41 GBP, or for an extra charge up to 500 GBP.
The weight limit is max 2kg.
This is the "premium" service. You pay more, and you get (a little) more.
Given that there is no land between Canada and Great Britain, this service travels by boat. Which is SLOW. Choose this only if you want to be surprised one day by a package you forgot about.
There is a LOT of distance between countries, and, more importantly, a lot of chew-y grind-y machines and disgruntled postal workers. Make sure your precious figs get where you want them to go in safety!
For the recipient:
Make sure that you send your shipper all relevant address information in the correct format, with particular attention paid to capitalization. Remember to include your country.
For the shipper:
Shippers should clearly PRINT the recipients address in the appropriate position on the package. Make sure that you include all the relevant info:
City, Province (or Territory)
Addresses in Canada will usually look like this, though the arrangement on FedEx/UPS forms etc can be a little different:
456 Dominion Square
Apartments/Units are written thus:
456 Dominion Square Apt 9
9-456 Dominion Square
A special note on the postal code:
In Canada, postal codes are 6 digits, in two groups of three. They are combination of letters and numbers in the order LETTERnumberLETTER numberLETTERnumber, eg. H4C 3E1. The space is, strictly speaking, part of the code, but sloppy handwriting and practice means that for most intents and purposes, H4C 3E1 and H4C3E1 are functionally the same.
Avoid second guessing your trading partner; s/he knows where s/he lives. If you have doubts, ask before you go to the Post Office.
Make sure that you include your return address--make it clear and complete so that if the package cannot be delivered, your figs come home safe to you.
For small items, padded mailers with strategic padding/cardboard reinforcement inside are a good an economical choice.
Remember that models have many bendy and tiny bitz, so reinforce and pad! It is also an excellent idea to place all figs in tiny ziplock bags, readily available at any dollar store. This will help to prevent gouges, and keep bitz together.
For larger items, use a box. Mangled, used boxes are not good; you want everything to arrive intact. Reinforce all seams and corners with packing tape. Less isn't more; more is more. You don't want anything to fall out.
Bubble wrap and foam peanuts are good protection; newspaper is not. Go the extra mile and over-protect.
17 September 2012: Canada Post Handling fee adjusted from $8.50 CDN to $9.95 CDN.
20 February 2013: USPS First Class International and Priority International prices amended.