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How to get an "Import Export Licence or Permit in Canada & USA?"

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

You can't ! Yes, you read it right. There is no export-import permit or licence that you can apply for to start exporting and importing in many countries like Canada and US.

The first question many people ask us is, "How to apply for or how to get an "export-import licence or permit?" quite oblivious to the fact that there is no export-import licence application that they can apply for in US, Canada and many other countries. After learning the fact, most of the times, the next question is, "Then how can we start exporting and importing in Canada/USA?"

Well, there are several steps you need to take before starting (or even planning) to export or import. You cannot start exporting or importing by just registering a company, a sole proprietorship or even incorporating a business. There is a lot of compliance to go through and depending on the product you are planning to export or import, you might need a permit/licence. For example, if you are importing any food for human consumption in Canada, it comes under SFCR (Safe Food For Canadians Regulations) and you will need an SFC licence from CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) to import. In US, Canada and many other countries, the export and import compliance (and thus licence/permit requirement) is different for different products. You do not need licences/permits for all products or services. (Yes, services ! There is proper export import compliance in place for services too.) Many companies make this mistake of not following proper compliance and not following trade sanctions and export without even knowing that they have exported. This is known as "deemed export".

Anyhow, coming back to the original topic, there are several steps to start exporting or importing. Lets go step by step:

1. Register a company/business in the country where you want to start the business. This will most likely be the country where you live as a citizen or permanent resident of that country. You can register the sole proprietorship but an LLC or a Corporation is highly recommended. LLP and other partnership structures are viable depending upon your needs.

2. See if you need separate Tax IDs before you can start. For example In Canada, when you incorporate, you automatically get a corporation tax account but in US, you need to apply for it separately. There are other tax accounts as well.

3. Check if you need an export license or an import licence before you can start. In Canada, you need to activate an export import number in addition to your business number to export or import. In USA, this step in not there but other licences might be required. Many other countries, there could be an export-import license requirement.

4. Like mentioned above, in US, Canada and many other countries, the export import compliance (and thus licence requirement) is different for different products. So, you need to check if a separate licence/permit (export or import) is required before you can start importing or exporting. Some products and commodities are restricted, prohibited or banned so you need to check that accordingly. You have to take care of trade sanctions, embargoes etc as well. There are country specific control lists or screening lists also.

5. Then you need to apply for a licence/authorization to declare your exports to the government (if exporting). In US, it is known as AES and in Canada, it is known as CERS (earlier known as CAED). Similar process is there for imports.

6. Most countries do not have export duties or taxes but all countries have import or customs duties and taxes so you need to learn how these duties and taxes are applied and how the trade agreements affect these duties and taxes. You will need to work with customs brokers to make this step easy.

Apart from the above, you need:

1. To arrange international freight, ocean, air, rail or road and work with freight forwarders.

2. Learn Incoterms (international commercial terms) provided by ICC to do export import business.

3. Understand payment terms & instruments, insurance terms and other legal terms.

4. Learn multiple export, import, shipping and legal documents in this business and you will need proper formats for these documents also.

Confusing? This is where Cangem Global can help you. We have an exclusive Export Import & Shipping Training Program.

Cangem's Export, Import & Shipping Training Program is the only such program in North America that is conducted by a multinational export import corporation that is QIB certified by the International Trade Council and is not just a training institute.

The trainees learn real scenarios with real examples, real documents and real step by step process.


The Summary of what you get:

1) Export, import, shipping, trading and brokering training.

2) Incoterms 2010 & 2020.

3) Formats for all the export, import, shipping, trading, brokering and legal documents.

4) Detailed instructions for setting up your own company in Canada or USA, activating export import account/licenses and tax accounts and getting other licenses or permits.

5) Market analysis, commodities information and marketing.

6) Proper way of working with freight forwarders & customs brokers.

7) Process of finding and selecting genuine buyers and sellers through due diligence (background check).

8) A script to talk to sellers, buyers, freight forwarders, custom brokers and other traders or brokers.

9) Support after the training for 2 months, overviewing if trainees are doing everything



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