FAQ about new customs rules for EU shipping

    What is changing on October 1, 2023, for international packages containing goods to the European Union (EU)?

    Data provided in a customs declaration – also referred to as Electronic Advanced Data (EAD) – is transmitted to the destination electronically, in advance of an item’s departure from Canada. EAD has been mandatory for all outbound barcoded packages containing goods shipped to the USA and internationally, since January 1, 2021.

    However, effective October 1, 2023, EU transportation and customs authorities will be using this EAD to make pre-departure approval decisions to determine whether an item can be loaded for transport and flown to the EU destination. Improved EAD quality will facilitate the items’ clearance and service in the destination country.

    Canada Post will be required to ensure all items leaving the country contain electronic advanced data prior to departure.

    This change follows the EU’s launch of its Import Control System 2 (ICS2). ICS2 is the second phase of a large-scale EU information system enabling customs authorities to carry out targeted risk assessments based on pre-declared data prior to shipped items arriving in the EU. This tool is used to determine in advance if items are safe to be loaded onto aircraft when destined to EU countries.

    Learn more about Import Control System 2 (ICS2)

    Who is impacted by this new rule for October 1, 2023?

    This new rule impacts all customers shipping packages containing goods to any of the EU member states including Norway and Switzerland.

    For electronic customs information to flow flawlessly to any international destination, it is the sender’s responsibility to make sure the customs declaration (also known as the CN22, CN23 or CP72) is completed in English or French only, with accurate and detailed information and all mandatory fields completed. Providing false or incomplete information, including entering ‘N/A’ for example, may result in your parcel being rejected by foreign customs authorities. Formal customs declarations must include a comprehensive, meaningful description of goods for each item in the shipment (see more detail on description requirements below).

    Failure to comply with these new requirements for goods sent to the EU will cause your package to be at risk for delays, non-delivery, refused entry, return to sender of the item (at sender’s expense), fines, seizures and voided delivery guarantees. Don’t jeopardize your packages, revenue, and customer satisfaction.

    Which organization is introducing this change?

    The change is being introduced by the European Commission and impacts all transport and customs authorities as part of the EU, Norway and Switzerland.

    Which EU countries do the new customs rules apply to?

    The European Commission is comprised of 27 member states and includes Norway and Switzerland. See the full list of countries and country codes below.

    • Austria (AT)
    • Belgium (BE)
    • Bulgaria (BG)
    • Croatia (HR)
    • Cyprus, Republic of (CY)
    • Czechia (Czech Republic) (CZ)
    • Denmark (DK)
    • Estonia (EE)
    • Finland (FI)
    • France (FR)
    • Germany (DE)
    • Greece (GR)
    • Hungary (HU)
    • Ireland (IE)
    • Italy (IT)
    • Latvia (LV)
    • Lithuania (LT)
    • Luxembourg (LU)
    • Malta (MT)
    • Netherlands (NL)
    • Norway (NO)
    • Poland (PL)
    • Portugal (PT)
    • Romania (RO)
    • Slovakia (SK)
    • Slovenia (SI)
    • Spain (ES)
    • Sweden (SE)
    • Switzerland (CH)

    Learn more about shipping items to these destinations, including limitations such as import restrictions, prohibitions and rate code details.

    Why is Canada Post now asking shippers to be more specific on their customs declaration?

    To improve border control and transport security, we need to digitally capture and transmit accurate, detailed information for the customs officials in the destination country.

    Customs declaration information is an essential part of sending goods overseas. All items must have a completed customs declaration to provide authorities in the destination country with all the information they need to facilitate their pre-loading determinations and inspections. This data must be sent in advance, prior to the item’s departure from Canada. 

    EU customs and transportation authorities are increasing their focus on knowing the parties to the transaction, as well as the contents being imported. To avoid delays and refusals, customers must now provide detailed and accurate information, including:

    • The sender and receivers’ full name, contact details, and complete and valid address, including postcode
    • A detailed description of each article content and its declared value with currency.

    Why is a detailed description of the goods being shipped so important and what does it need to include?

    Customs needs to know exactly what the contents are. When filling out the customs declaration form, you must provide accurate and detailed data and ensure all mandatory fields are completed. Providing false, incomplete or generic information may result in your package being delayed or refused entry by EU foreign transport and customs authorities. You must complete your declaration in English or French only. Failure to do so may result in the item being returned or delayed, non-delivery, voided delivery guarantees or customs seizures in the destination country.

    Generic descriptions such as “gift”, “sample”, “spare parts”, “equipment”, “clothes”, “appliances”, “artwork”, “medicine”, “health and beauty” or “textiles” will be treated as non-compliant.

    Accurate descriptions using detailed, precise, meaningful, plain language are mandated by all customs authorities globally. All description of goods must be at least 4 characters in length.

    Detailed descriptions per commodity should indicate what the goods are for, what purpose they are being used for and what they are made of, for example, “Men’s 100% cotton t-shirts”. The valid HS (tariff) Code must also be included for Sale of Goods (see “What is an HS code and why is it important?” below for more details).

    Acceptable descriptions:

    • Men's cotton t-shirts
    • Men's dress shoes
    • Women's cashmere scarf

    Unacceptable description (too generic):

    • Clothing
    • Shoes
    • Gifts

    To ensure your description is acceptable for shipping to the EU, please refer to the European Commission’s guidance on acceptable and unacceptable terms.

    What is an HS Code and why is it important?  

    Harmonized System (HS) Codes (or HS Tariff Codes) are an international standardized customs classification system now used by most trading nations throughout the world. HS Codes are commonly used throughout the export and import process for goods. The system is a standardized numerical method of classifying traded products. 

    Without an accurate description of the contents to generate a valid HS Tariff Code for the goods sold to the EU recipient, the item will be returned to sender.

    If your shipment contains more than one type of goods, you will need to add an HS Code for each unique type.

    Find a Harmonized System Code

    What is the purpose of a customs declaration and why is it important?

    When shipping international items, customs information provided by the customer is communicated to destination customs agencies in two ways:

    1. Printed on the customs declaration as part of the shipping label affixed to the item, and
    2. The electronic data of the customs declaration (also known as EAD) is transmitted electronically in advance of the item’s arrival, which is sent within minutes of the item’s deposit with Canada Post.

    The electronic transmission of this customs information allows EU transportation and customs authorities to leverage electronic advanced data (EAD) to determine if an item can be loaded on the aircraft for transportation to the EU. For this reason, customers must provide accurate and detailed information on their customs declarations and ensure all mandatory fields are completed for all items deposited with Canada Post.

    In addition, all manifests/orders must be transmitted at or before the time the shipment is deposited with Canada Post. The intent is to provide the electronic data to the customs agencies in advance of the item’s arrival in the destination country to facilitate efficient processing.

    If orders are transmitted late or not at all, shipments will arrive without electronic customs information and will be treated as non-compliant. In cases where items are missing the EAD, they will not be dispatched from Canada Post. 

    What information is required for a customs declaration?

    To facilitate uninterrupted pre-arrival activities, customs processing and delivery, a formal customs declaration must be completed accurately, including a comprehensive description of goods for each item in the shipment. Without this information, the shipment risks being held up or returned, resulting in unnecessary delays and a poor delivery experience for the shipment recipient. 

    All information provided in the customs declaration, including sender, receiver and content information, must be written in English or French only. You may also translate the information into the language of the destination country, but English or French is required. 

    Learn more about how to complete customs documents 

    Where can I find additional information on customs requirements?

    Information regarding customs can be found in the customs requirements section of our postal guide.

    What will Canada Post do with the detailed information I provide on my customs declaration?

    While some customers may be concerned or apprehensive to share their personal data with Canada Post, please note that Canada Post only shares electronic customs data with other foreign postal administrations who sign a data sharing privacy agreement that outlines the acceptable use of this data.

    The data sharing agreement states that the use of the customs data (including personal data) shall be restricted to processes relating to the exchange of mail and customs formalities and may not be used by the receiving parties for any other purpose except operational purposes such as routing, law enforcement, national security or as required by the receiving party’s national laws. 

    Your personal data will never be sold to third parties, nor will it be used for promotional purposes under any circumstance.