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Moving Back to Canada

Resources for Expatriate Canadians returning to Canada after living in the U.S. or further abroad

Importing a wine collection into Canada

Moving to Canada with a wine collection?

Here's how to import it

This resource page is updated regularly. Latest update: January 2019.

Many Canadians living in California, France, Germany, or other wine-rich areas of the world build lovely wine collections. When the time comes to move back to Canada, their wine collection is part of their household and naturally, it should come too. Easy, right?

Unfortunately, not. Here are some key things you need to understand:

Why all this information? So that you will understand why you must go through the following steps in order to bring your wine collection into Canada when you move. The government wants substantial duties and taxes from you if you choose to bring a collection to Canada.

What is a "wine collection"?

It is useful to define what a "wine collection" is as used in this resource. You can bring in collections of beer, whiskey, etc. but most people want to bring wine collections in. Yes, of course there are a some people who would bring in different kinds of alcohol and the process, in BC, for example, would be the same.

But, just for simplicity, let's stick to a "wine collection" being defined as 6 x 750ml bottles of wine, or more. Much more, in most people's collections: Dozens of bottles, and in some rare cases: hundreds.

How many bottles can you import?

To "import" a wine collection, the province of BC breaks down the volume into 3 categories. Other provinces have their own structures, but assume at this point that they are pretty similar. The first two categories are what are called "casual importation:"

  1. Up to 1.5 litres of wine (2 x 750ml bottles) may be brought into BC without duties or taxes, as long as you are bringing it physically with you when you come into Canada.

  2. Greater than 1.5 litres, up to 45.45 litres. In communicating with the BC Liquor Distribution board, I learned that up to 45.45 litres of wine (60 x 750ml bottles) maximum may be brought into BC under casual importation, " long as the product accompanies them through Customs." In this case - where you are physically driving across the border or arriving by plane and have the wine with you, you pay the taxes at the border, assuming you have all the paperwork arranged ahead of time (see below). If your wine collection is being shipped separately? Read more below...

  3. Larger collections (greater than 60 x 750ml bottles). Typically these arrive in a separate shipment. "As a former resident of Canada, you are not limited to the amount of liquor imported except very large quantities approved by our Director." The importation process is the same as with up to 45.45 litres. The BC Liquor Distribution Board "Settler's Effects Letter" explaining this. (PDF file that downloads when you click on the link)

The second category, 3 x 750ml bottles up to 60 bottles, is where many collections fit. You can bring it with you, as noted above, or you can have it shipped separately. This is a very doable volume for which you can handle the paperwork by yourself. "You may appoint a Customs Broker to submit all paperwork to the LDB on your behalf, however this is only an option and you may choose to represent yourself."

How much will it cost to import my collection?

There are many cost calculators out there, so the costs won't be covered in this resource. If you can afford a nice collection of wine, likely you don't care about the amount of duties and taxes anyway. And of course, your provincial liquor board will be calculating all this for you, so you can see what it costs at the time of their assessment.

British Columbia's process for bringing in your wine collection

Again, please note that all other provinces have their own similar processes, but here is how it works in BC: (contact information for LCBO - Ontario - noted later on this page)

Before your wine collection is brought to, or shipped to, Canada, the "Special Clearance Department" of the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) will be who you are working with. You need to contact them to handle the paperwork (contact details noted below).

Steps to follow for Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents only who are moving back to live in BC:

  1. You will need to document your collection, so tax can be calculated on it. There are four ways of doing this:

    1. Use the BCLDB BCLDB Settler Alcohol List Template spreadsheet (downloads when you click on it) to account for the alcohol in your collection. This is for either bringing the collection physically with you or shipping it.

    2. Or: If your collection is a mix of bottles that you acquired over time, by computer (not by hand) produce a "Proforma Invoice" with the following information on it:

      • "Number of bottles
      • Size of bottles
      • Type of product (wine!)
      • Percentage of alcohol
      • The year of the product
      • The name of the Winery that produced the wine, not the winery or shipper that shipped the product out.
      • Transaction value (also previously known as Fair Market Value): Transaction value of the goods is the price actually paid or payable for the goods."

    3. Or, if you are shipping, say, 48 bottles of wine from one winery or retailer, they may have given you a commercial invoice. You can also use this invoice.

    4. Or you may use a Canada Customs Invoice (CCI).

  2. If you are shipping the wine collection you must produce a "Manifest (also known as an Advice Notice)". On the Manifest is the following information:

    • "Consignee name should be the following:

      BC Liquor Distribution Branch
      C/O-XXX (your name)
      1234 ABC Street, Vancouver, BC (your delivery address)

    • Shipper Name and Address
    • Carrier Code and Cargo Control Number
    • Date of Direct Shipment
    • Port of Exit (if shipment is from the United States)
    • Weight of shipment"

  3. Send your BCLDB spreadsheet / Proforma Invoice / Commercial Invoice / Canada Customs Invoice and your Manifest (if shipping your collection) to the Special Clearances department of the BCLDB (contact information below)

  4. The BCLDB Special Clearances department will send you by fax or email their "Provincial Liquor Fee invoice" for your collection.

  5. If you are bringing the collection with you, you may pay the invoice at the border. In this case you have all the paperwork you need.

    If you are shipping the collection, pay the invoice "in person or via mail (BCLDB only accepts exact amount in cash, money order, certified cheques or business cheques)."

  6. For those shipping their collection, BCLDB will then send you a signed "B3" form, which is needed to clear the shipment at the border by your shipping company. By "clear the shipment", we mean "allow the shipment to go through Canada Customs at the border and then physically arrive at your home".

  7. "The broker or recipient [you, if you are doing this paperwork yourself] is also accountable for the Federal Charges that are on the B3 when it is submitted to CBSA for clearance." So, you pay any of these charges.

  8. Send the signed B3 form, with your proof of payment of the Federal Charges, to your shipping company for presentation to CBSA as the shipment arrives in Canada.

...and hopefully your wine collection arrives at your home!

Contact information

Here is the contact information for the British Columbia:

BCLDB - Special Clearances Department

Fax: 604-252-3350
Phone: 604-252-3345 (Lynne Montgomery, Special Clearances Clerk)

Here is the full details page, including contact information, for Ontario - The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO):

Importing Beverage Alcohol Products into Ontario for Personal Use

What about larger than 60 x 750ml bottle collections?

As noted above, large collections follow the same process as smaller ones, but may have to be approved by the Director.

Alternatively, if you wish help with the moving of a collection, a professional Mobility Consultant or specialty goods shipping company can either provide the help or move the collection for you.

Your idea? Your thoughts? Your experiences?

Contributions & Feedback, please!

This resource is updated regularly, as policy and procedures are changing regularly ("Please note the casual importation policy is currently under review and it may [be] subject to change.").

Please share your learning and experiences, and suggest improvements, so that other Canadians moving back to Canada, and those moving here for the first time, may benefit from your experiences and wisdom.

Thank you!

Paul Kurucz

Latest update to this resource: July 2019.

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A happy client:

Hi Paul,

Just to update you - we landed and sailed through customs! So thank you so much for all of your advice...It was a thoroughly pleasant experience.

This is to say thank you for everything. Your advisory has been so incredibly helpful and saved us considerable time and removed room for error.

With best wishes,


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