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Non-licensed Imports to Canada Automatically Refused Beginning February 2024

Although enforcement of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) took effect in January of 2019, some of the policies were not immediately enforced. One of these was the automatic verification of SFC licences for imports, which began in 2021 for certain foods and now takes effect in February for all covered manufactured foods.

In November, the CFIA announced that it will activate the automatic verification of SFC licences for imports of manufactured foods (as defined here). As of February 12, 2024, any food products arriving in Canada that are not imported under a valid SFC licence will be automatically rejected. To be valid, the licence must be active (not expired, surrendered, suspended or cancelled), issued for the activity “Importing Food,” and issued for the specific commodities that are being imported. Additionally, the importer’s SFC licence number must be entered correctly on the import declaration, or that, and all future, shipments will be rejected until licensing error(s) are corrected and the import declaration re-submitted.

The licence application requires that the foods to be imported be identified by commodity and sub-commodity. It is important to note that the commodity and sub-commodity titles listed in the SFC licence application do not use the same definitions as those of the SFCR, as the SFC categories are generally broader than the SFCR definitions and standards of identity.

CFIA’s Integrated Import Declaration (IID) enables commercial importers and customs brokers to submit import declaration information and documentation through a single portal, then obtain the admissibility decision electronically. While declarations can be submitted through the portal up to 90 days in advance, ensuring that you have a valid SFC licence to import prior to submitting an import declaration will help to prevent the food shipment from being delayed at the border.

There are a number of reasons that an import declarations may be rejected, in which case a reject message will be sent through the IID system. The message will indicate the Government Department rejecting the shipment and the reason. If rejected by CFIA, the message will include the rejected item or commodity and the reason.

If an importer needs to obtain a new licence, reapply when a licence expires, or determine the status of an existing license, this can be done through My CFIA, where guidance is also provided on creating an account and party profile for those new to the system. If you have had a license but don’t see it listed, it has likely been cancelled, in which case it would have been removed from your profile. When applying or reapplying for a licence, CFIA cautions that anyone who already has a party profile should not create a new one. Additionally, non-resident importers must be sure to apply for a licence for “Importing Food” not “Exporting Food,” as CFIA uses the term “export” for food being sent from Canada to a foreign state. TAG Canada works with many clients, both Canadian and foreign, on imports to Canada, SFC licensing, and working with CFIA on rejected shipments. Give us a call to assist with your import program.


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