Cashing in and out of border security inspections has become much harder since December 2003.
That’s when Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) became a separate entity from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), with an increased focus on providing national security and public safety.
Most travelers understand that they have to present proper identification such as a passport, birth certificate or citizenship card when they report to a border security customs officer.
Declaring Cash and Monetary Instruments at Customs
Few travelers realize that they must declare when they are carrying cash worth more than $10,000 in Canadian currency.
CBSA officers can and do seize any amount that exceeds $10,000. This applies whether a traveler is leaving from or returning to Canada.
In addition to cash, the $10,000 restriction also applies to monetary instruments including stocks, bonds and traveler certificates.
CBSA Border Inspections
Under subsection 11(1) of Canada’s Customs Act, all persons have to answer all questions that a customs officer asks truthfully. A customs officer can ask about the amount of money that the traveler is carrying, and has the right to search that person’s possessions.
Any person who lies or otherwise tries to deceive a customs officer can be charged. Any violation of the Customs Act is a criminal offense.
But it is not just the questions that customs officers ask. Travelers holding undeclared cash or monetary instruments valued at more than $10,000 need to look out for officers in surprising disguises.
Sometimes the CBSA plants casually dressed officers on airplanes and boats to collect intelligence on passengers. Another ruse is to have baggage handlers or cleaners who are really CBSA officers mingle with travelers while they wait in customs lines.
Anything suspicious that the traveler says or does is reported to backroom security officers, who are often watching customs lines via surveillance cameras.
Inspection at Customs Offices Outside of Canada
Travelers are allowed to declare at a designated customs office located outside Canada, according to Customs Act subsection 11(3).
When they arrive in Canada, pre-approved travelers can pass through customs without a formal inspection.
However, a CBSA officer does have the right to require another inspection under subsection 11(2). This inspection can also lead to seizure of the traveler’s entire holdings of cash and monetary instrument.
Only $10,000 has to be returned. In addition, the CBSA will impose a fine for the infraction.
Best Practices for Reporting Cash over $10,000
Border security officers in Canada and the U.S. are much stricter on cash holdings over $10,000 in an effort to combat money laundering, illegal proceeds from crime and subsequent funding of terrorists.
The best policy is for travelers to carefully prepare before passing through customs checkpoints and to be 100% truthful with border services officers.
The CBSA provides Form E677 – Cross-border Currency or Monetary Instruments Report. The one-page form has 3 sections: one for basic personal information, another for departing information, and a third panel to detail currency and coin or other monetary instrument holdings.
Filling out and signing this form helps to ensure a problem-free passage through customs inspections.
Travelers carrying a large amount of cash should also obtain a receipt from the financial institution that provided the currency. On request, major Canadian banks will include a statement receipt when they issue large cash amounts.
Check with CBSA for Cash and Monetary Instrument Rules
Customs Act subsection 11(6) does mention exemptions for prescribed classes of persons like high-level ambassadors.
Do these restrictions apply to gold, silver or platinum bars?
Technically, bars of precious metals aren’t currency. One could argue that they shouldn’t be counted towards the $10,000 limit.
For both ambassador and precious metal bar concerns, the best cash plan is to check with a local CBSA office. This should be done in the early stages of preparing for a trip.