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  • Bringing equipment into Canada

  • Thomas Miller

    April 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    We have a shoot coming up in Calgary and are bringing a bunch of our gear from the United States. Has anybody shot in Canada recently who knows the regulations and carne stuff bringing cameras and lighting equipment across the border and back again? We will be traveling by plane.

    Tom Miller
    Big Pictures Media
    Denver, Colorado

  • Al Bergstein

    April 8, 2011 at 4:18 am

    Just make sure you have receipts for all your gear coming and going.


  • Nick Griffin

    April 9, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    I’m sorry that there haven’t been more responses to your inquiry so I’ll try to contribute what little I know from coming CLOSE to shooting in Canada a couple of times and in other countries a few times.

    First and foremost, the Canadian government takes the attitude that you are there taking work away which should have gone to Canadians. That’s their starting point, so be forewarned. The best protection for this is representing yourself as a part of the company or entity you are going there to shoot. In my case (industrial) I am there to shoot highly specialized stuff that a normal, non-specialist would not know and therefore could not do. It also helps if what you’re shooting is presented as being for “internal company use only” ie.- training, and not something which will go to the public here or there.

    There’s been a lot of talk in the Business & Marketing COW in previous years about the need to get a “carnet” fro US Customs. The Exports Logistics guide describes this as “A carnet (car-nay) is an international customs document that allows you to carry or send merchandise for a one year period or less into another member country for display or demonstration without paying duties, posting bonds or submitting the normal customs documents.”

    Then there’s a more simple (and much less safe) approach. Compile a full list of your gear complete with serial #’s, where purchased and current market value which you then take to US customs from where you are departing and ask them to stamp it for use as proof when you come back that you are not importing the gear. The point of this is to prove that any taxes and import duties were already paid the first time the gear came into the country.

    Of course both of these approaches are based on the fact that when bringing stuff back into the US it generally receives a lot more attention than when it leaves. The carnet is also considered a promise that you are not going to sell your gear in the country where you are going, thereby attempting to deny them of any duties and taxes. Not having a carnet means you need to be a fast talker when convincing the border authorities of the other country that you have no attention of doing this.

    And finally, there’s the cheap, really simple and REALLY unsafe approach that I know of some people doing and that is flying into Buffalo/Detroit/Seattle (and so on), renting a car and driving into and out of Canada with your gear in the trunk declaring nothing either way.

    Or if you’re traveling with a really small camera like the Sony EX-1, just pretend that you’re a tourist… but have your sales receipt ready for US Customs when returning.

    Hope this is of some help, but I still hope others will chime in. And BTW- the unsafe stuff is NOT recommended, just provided to stimulate discussion.

  • Thomas Miller

    April 9, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Thank you NIck for this answer. We were prepared to do a carnet and even post a bond – as this is a pretty big client and the gear we were going to bring in is clearly TV equipment that couldn’t be mistaken for a personal camera. However, the opportunity went away because the client determined, rightly but unfortunately, that is would be cheaper for them to hire local Canadian crew. No hard feelings for us though, because we’ve done plenty of work in the states for Canadian production companies coming here!

    Tom Miller
    Big Pictures Media
    Denver, Colorado

  • Nick Griffin

    April 10, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    [Thomas Miller] “unfortunately, (it) would be cheaper for them to hire local … crew.”

    Sad, but too often true.

  • Piotr Niemcewicz

    August 25, 2011 at 8:13 pm


    We travel from USA to Canada with many, many gear. 2 camera, tripod, lights. (full car of gear)
    And NO trouble, we shot in Ontario for 2 weeks and back to Chicago.

  • James Dow

    September 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Not Canada but….

    I recently was heading out for a shoot in Guatemala. Most of my gear I carry-on, in a rolling suitcase type equipment case, which the TSA loves going through in great detail. I was going through Dallas, where a TSA employee with an attitude asked for my “paperwork.” Since this was a first, I wasn’t sure exactly what they needed. The gruff TSA dude pointed me in a different direction and said that the guy at “the end of the blue line” would give me all the details. I usually travel with the serial numbers of my gear, and a few of the receipts, but not all of them. I was getting a little nervous, as my connecting flight was less than an hour away. When I got to the next TSA employee he just asked what I was going to be doing. Nothing else. He didn’t ask to see anything. Just sayin’.


  • Leslie August

    April 5, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    There are two different US Customs forms you can use to prove that the equipment being brought back into the US are American Goods Returned. One is the CBP4455 for commercial equipment and the other is the CBP4457. The former is called a Certificate of Registration and the latter is a Certificate of Registration for Personal Effects. The ATA Carnet also serves as a Certificate of Registration for American Goods Returned. What foreign customs will accept is a different story. Many countries accept the carnet and all countries have some kind of temporary import bond you can post to get equipment into their country. Unfortunately, those bonds usually need to be paid for and often collateralized in cash with the local currency. Using a local customs broker’s bond is also an option but you will pay for those services as well. As someone else in this thread mentions, you have to choose how much risk you are willing to assume.

  • Neil Cowley

    July 6, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    CBP respects a letter from the provincial tourism board for the providence you are traveling to. They will get ‘sticky’ about you ‘working’. The provinical tourism board gives us a “letter of invitation” that says flowery things like how many people we broadcast to and how I’m not staying long enough for a work permit and stuff like that. But it gives the border agent a higher authority to answer to – and that I relate to that higher authority. And it works. I’m doing mostly one man band assignments with a few hundred pounds of gear flying in for a week or two at a time.

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