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Top Reasons for Delays with CFIA Regulated Goods

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) govern the export and imports of food and agricultural products in Canada. They are responsible for ensuring exporters and importers meet the regulations that have been set on these types of goods.

Everyone wants to go through this process as fast and smoothly as possible, without any hiccups. This is, however, not always the case. It can be a part of the process to have shipments delayed or even rejected at customs. Here are some of the common reasons that may lead to the delay of your goods.

Documentation Issues

When shipping CFIA-regulated goods, certain documents must be provided for examination before the goods can be released. This will not be possible if some of your documents cannot be verified, making you susceptible to severe custom delays. These are the two issues that commonly arise when it comes to documentation:


Your documents need to be clear enough for them to be properly examined. This will not be the case if one or more of the papers happen to be illegible. The quality of a document is more so likely to deteriorate when it is faxed or photographed. Hence, emailing is advised when sharing your documents with your customs broker.

Incorrect or Missing Documents

For a release request to go through, all the necessary requirements must be submitted. Therefore, it is important that you do proper research to find out all the documents required for your type of shipment. You can quickly get this information from the CFIA Automated Reference System (AIRS). Ensure to have your SFC license if importing food for human consumption prior to shipping your goods.

Additionally, you want to avoid sending unwarranted documents to your customs broker, which may lead to unnecessary confusion.

Fresh Produce Imports

Incomplete Information

Apart from having all the necessary documents, you must also ensure that you include all the CFIA information to process your release request. When exporting to Canada, there are two invoicing options, depending on your shipment type. That is, the Commercial Invoice and the Canada Customs Invoice, which requires more details than the former. You can look up whichever applies to your situation to find out the required information. To help avoid delays, you should forward the following documents and information to your customs broker:
  • Shipping documents
  • Invoice
  • Packing list
  • The country in which each item was manufactured.

Misclassified Shipments

Misclassified shipments occur when products are assigned the wrong tariff classification code. In 2017, this was reported to happen to approximately 20% of the shipments. Tariff codes are a ten digit number used to classify products for duty charges and inform the CBSA of the exact items being shipped.

These are determined from a standardized list by the World Customs Organization referred to as the “Harmonized System.” This has provided constancy among countries since products get to have the same code regardless of the country.

Incorrect classification of shipments can result in severe consequences, including unforeseen custom delays. It is, therefore, crucial that you identify the correct codes for your items. This is, however, not always a straightforward task. To avoid mistakes, you can seek the help of a qualified customs broker or logistics provider.

Non-adherence to Packaging and Labeling Requirements

For your goods to be allowed into Canada, you must have adhered to the federal packaging and labeling requirements. For example, under the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act, it is required for some products to be labeled in both French and English to reflect the country’s bilingual nature.

Aside from the federal requirements, prior to sale you also need to pay attention to those at the provincial level. It is also mandatory that you comply with the labeling requirements set by the CFIA. Failure to do so may not only lead to delay of your goods but also penalties.

Lack of Enough Processing Time

Release request processing times will vary from one shipment to another. This is usually reliant on the nature of the shipment, the CBSA, Participating Government Agencies (PGA), and whether all documents are in place. Each of these entities has a minimum amount of time that they require for processing.

Keep in mind the approximated processing time for each will forwarding your documents to your customs broker to begin the request process. This should be well before the carrier arrives at the border to give enough time for the necessary information to be processed at each stage. This way, your goods can be cleared immediately, and no delays will be experienced.

Hiring the Wrong Customs Broker

Considering the steps and amount of documentation involved, the process of clearing shipments at the border can be a tedious one. This is especially the case for someone who is not experienced with the same. Luckily, you do not have to suffer through it on your own.

Hiring a Customs Broker is a great decision and comes with several benefits. With years of experience comes a great understanding of the clearance process. They can help you navigate easily through the entire process, ensuring that everything is up to standard and that all your documents are in place.

After waiting for your shipment to arrive at the border, you do not want to spend any more time waiting for it to be cleared by customs. To avoid this, you should keep in mind the above reasons that are likely to cause its delay and take the necessary steps to mitigate them.

Feel free to contact us for more information on importing CFIA regulated goods into Canada.  

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