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Customs to Canada
Michael Der, Photographer, Assistant
Los Angeles | California | | Posted: 2:43 PM on 06.11.14
->> Hey fine folks of SS! Looking for some general feedback regarding traveling to Canada on professional assignments. I have been told taxes and duties can be quite severe, and while that burden is supported by my client, I would love to help the cause as much as I can and minimize the amount I must front personally.

I will be bringing a relatively small kit with me; a ThinkTank Shapeshifter bag with 2 pro DSLR bodies 24-70 & 70-200, and a flash. Nothing too wild and crazy.

If you have any professional insight on things to do or more importantly, not do, during the customs process, I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts.
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Jan Langsner, Photographer
Edmonton | AB | Canada | Posted: 6:41 PM on 06.11.14
->> Make sure you have a work permit. If customs/immigration find out you are coming here to work and don't have the proper documentation, they will refuse you entry.
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Mark Perlstein, Photographer, Photo Editor
Plano | TX | USA | Posted: 7:29 PM on 06.11.14
->> If you get caught lying to Canadian Customs, you will be banned from entering Canada for a year. That happened to a US photographer I hired when he said he was just going to a meeting, and customs found my assignment email when they searched his bag.
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Mike Huffstatler, Photographer, Assistant
Rancho Cucamonga | Ca | United States | Posted: 7:49 PM on 06.11.14
->> Get the work permit for sure. I've gone through the border a few times with a fair sized kit, shooting only for personal use. That has always invoked multiple questions around what I was really doing.

Far better safe than sorry.
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Sean Burges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Canberra | ACT | Australia | Posted: 12:11 AM on 06.12.14
->> Call the Canadian consulate in LA. I think there might a provision under NAFTA that lets you cross over easily. Either way they can advise you on the work permits. You should be able to have the conversation without giving your details (or just make some up to get the info you need).
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Michael Okoniewski, Photographer
Syracuse | NY | USA | Posted: 8:20 AM on 06.12.14
->> Stop by your nearest customs office with your gear and a complete list of it that you are taking. Complete with serial numbers. Call ahead to tell them you are coming. That way you won't have to pay duty on the gear when you return to the US. I'm in upstate NY and go to Canada occasionally.
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Stephen Brashear, Photographer, Assistant
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 1:20 PM on 06.12.14
->> Michael- I have traveled to Canada on assignment several times. I have not needed a work permit nor have I needed to go through customs to declare any camera equipment (I did that on my first assignment and they told me it was unnecessary). At the border I have told the Canadian border guard that I'm what my assignment was. Most important to them was that the company hiring me was not a Canadian company (I think if a Canadian-based company hired your then you might need a work permit). Regarding equipment, they simply ask if I plan on leaving any of my equipment in Canada.

Returning to the U.S., I tell the border guard, why I was in Canada, they ask me if I purchased any anything while across the border. I think the limit is $500 per person of stuff you bought in Canada or something like that before you have to declare anything.

Also worth noting, I have done this with and without my Washington State enhanced Drivers License. Shortly after I got my enhanced drivers license the security measured were changed. I think California has an enhanced driver's license, though I'm not sure if it works at the US-Canada border. Also, I usually cross in a car, so I'm not sure if it changes if you are flying either.

I hope this helps.
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Dan Megna, Photographer
Coronado, (San Diego) | CA | USA | Posted: 3:16 PM on 06.12.14
->> For what it's worth, here's my personal Canadian Customs experience from last month... I was hired by a U.S. based company for a two day shooting project at the firm's Vancouver BC office.

Walked up to the Canadian Customs officer who asked my purpose for the visit. I told him the truth. I was immediately sent to 'secondary screening.'

The folks at secondary were 100% business and asked me the same questions three or four different ways, apparently trying to trip me up. Anyway, repeatedly explained everything including the fact I've been working for over a decade as a photographer for a publishing company in the Toronto area. Even broke out the business cards with the Ontario address...

After a couple intimidating hours they finally decided to let me continue on but warned me the "next time" I'll need a work permit.

Then... I went out to retrieve all my 'stuff' off the baggage carousal... of course it was gone...! Took another hour track it down...SHEESH! So much for telling the truth! But I'm not one lie to Federal officers for the sake of a paycheck.
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Robert Hanashiro, Photographer
Los Angeles | CA | | Posted: 9:07 PM on 08.13.14
->> Resurrecting this topic ...

Any recent experiences and insight on going to Canada from the U.S. with several cases of camera, video and lighting gear to shoot some assignments?

I'll be heading up there for several shoots next month...
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Mark Perlstein, Photographer, Photo Editor
Plano | TX | USA | Posted: 9:31 PM on 08.13.14
->> Bert, the news media is supposedly exempt from needing a work permit. Have your editor write a letter(On USAT letterhead) saying you are on a news assignment for USAT, and you will be there for x days and will directly return to the US. Be truthful. You get caught fibbing, you lose.
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Mark Perlstein, Photographer, Photo Editor
Plano | TX | USA | Posted: 9:33 PM on 08.13.14
->> It is important to specify in your letter how many days you will be in Canada working.
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Jon Blacker, Photographer
Toronto | ON | Canada | Posted: 1:24 AM on 08.14.14
->> In addition to doing everything above-board and assuring whether you do or do not require a work permit (it wouldn't be a bad idea to check with BOTH the US and Canadian consulates), if you're traveling with a lot of gear, like it sounds Bert will be, a Carnet is by far the best way to get your gear into the destination country and back into the US without incurring any duties, taxes or other similar fees.

A Carnet is essentially a bond that states you're going to be leaving the destination country with all of the gear you're going in with. They're fairly cheap and not exceptionally difficult to fill out. Here's a good link with more details;
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Sam Morris, Photographer
Henderson (Las Vegas) | NV | USA | Posted: 6:41 PM on 08.14.14
->> I had no problem entering Quebec a couple years ago while on assignment for my paper. I told them what I was working on and showed them my work issued ID and they told me to have fun. It could have been dumb luck 'though. Or the fact that we were the last plane in before customs closed up shop and they didn't want to bother with me.
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Thread Title: Customs to Canada
Thread Started By: Michael Der
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