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Selling Canadian Goods at a U.S. Trade Show

If your business is considering the possibility of selling Canadian goods at a U.S. trade show, then it’s important to remember that it’s not just a case of packing y


Trade Show Shipping
December 4, 2019
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If your business is considering the possibility of selling Canadian goods at a U.S. trade show, then it’s important to remember that it’s not just a case of packing your goods in a suitcase and crossing into the U.S. The process is somewhat similar to moving imported goods across countries; they need to be declared and they will likely be subject to a number of different duties and taxes. If you want to sell goods across the border, then it’s important to consider a customs broker that can help you transport your goods duty-free so you can safely showcase your products at an international trade show.

In order to get the latest information about selling Canadian goods at a U.S. trade show, it’s important to consult the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for more information. While your customs broker will likely explain most of the information to you first, it’s a good idea as a small business to do your research to see what type of fees you’ll be subjected to and what type of products you can take across.

What Documents Do I Need for Shipping Trade Show Materials from Canada?What Documents Do I need for Shipping Trade Show Materials to Canada

Before you cross the border with your trade show materials, products and other similar goods, it’s important to prepare your documentation to make things easier. In most cases, a customs broker will be able to handle most of the work by reporting and clearing your goods with customs. In some cases, they might also arrange for shipping and transportation if you have a lot of goods to send.

Whether you decide to self-clear your items or speak to a customs broker, you’re going to need the following documents to get into the U.S. with your goods.

  • Verification that you’re an exhibitor that will be attending a trade show. This will usually come in the form of a Letter of Recognition handed by the CBSA.
  • A commercial invoice to show the trade show shipments and the value assigned to each one. This will also include gift items that you plan to give away and marketing materials for your booth at the trade show.
  • If you plan to sell and deliver goods to the general public, you’ll be required to have a work permit as well.
  • If you’re only displaying or demonstrating your goods, then you don’t need a work permit to do so.

There may be specific documentation required from you if you plan to ship very specific goods or shipping a trade booth. The requirements will change depending on the individual circumstances of your business, so it’s a good idea to speak with a customs broker to get more information regarding the documentation you need before you ship your Canadian goods to be sold or displayed at a U.S. trade show. Thankfully, most of this will be handled by the customs broker unless it’s something personal such as acquiring a work permit.

Need help shipping your trade show booth and materials? 
Fill out a short form or give us a call and one of our trade show specialists will answer your questions.

Canada Customs Clearance for Trade Show Goods

While most trade show organizers will have some kind of recommendation for a customs broker, it’s a service that can be provided by many different logistics-focused businesses such as R+L Global Logistics. This means that it’s worth looking around at different services to see which one would be best suited for your needs.

Most exhibitors that are only carrying a few items will actually have the option to declare and clear their goods at the border. The more prepared you are, the less time it will take to finish the declaration of your goods and the more time you have to get to the show.

The most common options for customs clearance for trade show goods include:

  • A.T.A. Carnet - Obtained from the local Chamber of Commerce, considered to be a “passport for goods”.
  • E29B - Temporary Admission Permit - A flexible way to bring goods across the border if you plan to attend multiple trade shows.
  • B3 - Consumption Entry - A method of customs clearance designed for goods that are lower in value than typical trade show shipments.

Each method comes with its pros and cons, so it’s important to speak to your customs broker and ask for information on each one to ensure that you pay the least amount of duties and taxes when crossing the border.

How Do You Declare Trade Show Items at Customs?How Do You Declare Trade Show Items at Customs

In order to declare your goods, you must prepare a commercial invoice to present to U.S. customs. If customs finds that something in your shipment hasn’t been declared, then it could delay your shipment by several days and you could miss the trade show date.

Here are some important concerns when preparing your commercial invoice.

  1. Make sure every item is listed on your commercial invoice and do not generalize. Instead, be highly specific.
  2. Value every item accurately. If something is intended as a gift, make sure it’s assigned a nominal value like 0.01 cents.
  3. Describe every item in great detail, such as its purpose and what it’s made from.
  4. For food items, you must be registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The commercial invoice will include a lot of information that must be filled in correctly in order for your shipment to arrive on time for your trade show. Failing to do this will put your trade show at risk, hence why speaking to a customs broker can be one of the best ways to save time, money and be more efficient with the shipment.

Do keep in mind that most of this will be handled by a customs broker should you decide to choose a service like R+L Global Logistics. By planning well in advance and partnering with a global logistics company that can handle your customs declarations, it’s guaranteed to go much more smoothly.

Trade Show Shipping with R+L Global Logistics

As experts in trade show shipping services, R+L Global Logistics understands the logistical challenges and concerns that international companies face when attempting to break into a new market or grow their audience overseas. That’s why we’ve specialized our services to be one of the most efficient and knowledgeable trade show shipping logistics services in the world.

So if you’re interested in selling Canadian goods at a U.S. trade show, don’t hesitate to contact us today for more information or to request a quote.

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